Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Basil Pesto and Uses

Last night I wanted to make something with pesto. I'd just made up a bunch of the pesto recipe below and froze. Tho not typically combined with pesto recipes I've found, I wanted to add chicken, so had a bone-in breast boiling, to create some broth.

In my Hearth & Home cookbook I have this pesto recipe and mention making a meal of it with adding potatoes in the pasta boiling water, drain the potatoes and pasta, and toss with pesto. The actual dish is called Trenette Al Pesto. You boil several quarts of salted water, adding 3 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced not more than 1/4" thick. I always cut the potatoes like french fries and boil them about 5-10 minutes before adding 1# of linguine or fettuccine pasta. And actually, I boil chicken first and then cook the potatoes and pasta in the chicken broth, debone and shred the chicken, and toss it in with the pesto. The recipe doesn't call for broth or chicken, I just do it.

Traditionally, pesto is made with an Italian basil. Non-Italian variations are made with other herbs and greens, and some have olives and sun-dried tomatoes. Differing 'nuts' can be used too: like walnuts or almonds. They could be toasted. Pesto is originally made by pounding the basil and mixing in a mortar and pestle. Cook's Illustrated Complete book of Pasta and Noodles has you first put the basil in a sealable plastic bag and pound with the flat side of a meat-pounder to bruise the leaves before processing in a food processor.

3 C basil leaves
1/4 C pine nuts
1/2 C good tasting olive oil
3 lg garlic cloves
Process this in a food processor till grainy.
Fold in 1/2 C grated parmesan cheese.

When freezing pesto, I don't add the parmesan till I'm using it in a recipe. This time, since I quickly decided to clip off most of my garden basil, I made it without the garlic too, since I didn't have enough on hand. So my large ziplock bags, full of smaller bags of the recipe, are labeled "without garlic and parmesan", so I know to add it later.

There's differing basils, and not all make good pesto. I grow a large leaf Italian basil called "Genovese". Basil needs a lot of pinching off of the tops for branching and not getting leggy. So I cut back the basils pretty close to the ground, leaving some leaves and will get more before they're frosted out.

Another recipe using pesto, Rigatoni alla Fornaia, sautes onion, garlic and tomatoes, cooking down with some white wine, then adding a few tablespoons each of pesto and ricotta, tossing it all together with cooked pasta.

Last night I wanted homemade pasta. And I found another recipe similar to the potato one above with added green beans. I have a hand-cranked pasta machine. Though you can make eggless pasta, I prefer it with eggs. I always feel having some protein helps in better assimilation of carbohydrates - so not as much of a gaining weight producing food. I use my fresh ground (bagged in the freezer) whole wheat flour.

3 large eggs, beaten
2 C flour
Have it all at room temp. Pulse in a food processor with the metal blade until dough forms a rough ball. If it seems too dry (flours differ, and too, humidity makes a difference) add water 1/2 tsp at a time; or if too sticky, add some flour 1 Tb at a time. Turn out the dough and knead a few minutes till smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap to relax at least 15 minutes. I divide the dough in 6ths, working with one at a time. Follow directions of the pasta machine, or hand roll it very thin and hand cut. Fresh pasta cooks up in boiling water in just a few minutes. Freeze whatever you don't use.

The recipe I made last night is called  
tho I didn't use penne pasta but fettuccine (wider flat pasta than linquine). And I'd been boiling up that chicken breast, I started this post with. They boil the potatoes in separate water and the green beans and pasta together in water. I used the chicken broth, boiling them all in it, starting with the potatoes till almost tender, since the beans and fresh pasta only needed to boil 3-4 minutes. And I tossed in the shredded chicken from the cooled, deboned breasts. Someday I'll post about "umami", the fifth taste. The chicken broth is my umami addition to the recipe.

1# potatoes, slice 1/4" thick
1# green beans, ends cut off and cut in 1/2" lengths
1# pasta
pesto recipe above

Cook as I suggest above, toss together and serve immediately. Should serve 4.

I freeze some pesto in ice cube trays, so the bag has lots of pesto cubes, probably about 2Tb. I LOVE pesto spread on a toasted piece of my homemade bread! I also like to cut tomatoes in half for baking/broiling with pesto on top. I make a pesto pizza, spreading the dough with pesto and adding fresh sliced tomato and mozzarella cheese.

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