Thursday, June 18, 2015

Classic Basil & Walnut Pesto

Italians have long used walnuts for pesto, as they lend a rich earthiness to the sauce. This foolproof recipe from my treasured dogeared copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, quips that this sauce is "more Mastroianni than DeNiro: suave, mellow, even elegant. Walnuts and heavy cream add sophistication to the basil-garlic duo — a pesto that is equally at home on pasta, fluffed into hot rice or stirred into homemade mayonnaise  as a sauce for cold poached fish or crudités".

Basil & Walnut Pesto 
Makes 2 cups
Recipe courtesy of The Silver Palate Cookbook

2 cups fresh basil leaves thoroughly washed and patted dry
4 good-size garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 cup shelled walnuts
1 cup best-quality olive oil
1 cup freshly grated imported Parmigiano 
1/2 cup freshly grated imported Romano
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine the basil, garlic and walnuts in the bowl of food processor and chop. Leave the motor running and add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Shut the motor off, add the cheeses, a big pinch of salt and a liberal grinding of pepper. Process briefly to combine, then scrape out into a bowl and cover with a thin film of olive oil on top, until ready to use; freezes well.

Pasta with Pesto
Serves 6-8
Recipe courtesy of The Silver Palate Cookbook

1 lb linguine or fettuccine
1 1/2 tbsp salt
4 quarts water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup homemade Basil & Walnut pesto
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated imported Parmigiano or Romano cheese, optional

Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add the salt and when the water starts to boil again, add the pasta. Use a wooden spoon to stir the pasta until all the strands are under the water. Boil rapidly until done to taste. To test, occasionally  lift and bite a strand. Stir 2 tablespoons of the hot pasta water and the heavy cream into the pesto, then drain the pasta into a colander and return it to the hot pan. Stir in the pesto and toss well to combine. Serve immediately into warm pasta bowls. More fresh ground pepper is welcome, but additional cheese is not really necessary. 

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