Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Basil Almond Romano Pesto with Pasta and Baby Rocket

Pine nuts, the edible seeds of pines, have always been expensive as they are labour intensive to harvest. But in the last year the prices of pine nuts have doubled. I have not found a suitable explanation for the more recent and dramatic increase in price other than higher demand. The demand has, in theory, risen due to people's growing awareness of specialty ingredients. The Food Network, cooking websites and food blogs are all to blame! Pine nuts a have a great and distinctive nutty flavour (especially when toasted). But why does everybody need to know? Luckily not many people read this blog so I am not adding to the problem!

Pine nuts are a traditional ingredient of pesto. Lately I have been trying different nuts and seeds in the place of pine nuts. In this case I used almonds, but seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin yield interesting results. This pesto pasta recipe is a deliciously fresh and quick to prepares, and I love the addition of rocket for its pepperiness. Round it out with a homemade soup and some artisan's bread and you are all set.

The pasta in this recipe is hard to find. The more common penne rigate (ridged penne), is a good replacement. The ridges hold on to the sauce well.

Basil Almond Romano Pesto with Pasta and Baby Rocket (Arugula)
serves 4-6
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced in half
  • 750 ml / 3 cups fresh basil leaves (lightly packed)
  • 50 ml / 1/4 cup peeled almonds, toasted
  • 125 ml / 1 /2 cup Romano cheese, grated
  • 50 ml / 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
  • 454 g / 1 lb pasta elicoidali (A specialty style of grooved rigatoni)
  • 225 g / 8 oz baby rocket
To a food processor add the garlic, basil, almonds and Romano cheese. Puree until granular. With the food processor running, in a steady stream, add the olive oil. Add the lemon juice and pulse a few times. Season to taste.*

Cook the pasta following the manufacturer's instructions. Drain hot pasta quickly and return to pot. Immediately fold in the pesto and the baby rocket until well combined and the rocket has mostly wilted. Serve with lots of freshly cracked pepper and perhaps some shavings of Romano cheese.

*Basil pesto darkens quickly, and should not be cooked, but only heated like in this recipe. If not using right away store in fridge in an air tight container. Add the pesto to the container then squeeze lemon juice onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place it on top of the pesto to keep it from browning. Then place the lid over the container. Use the same day for maximum flavour.

My last few posts, including this one, have photos taken on my iphone. I am rather enjoying the spontaneity of it as I always have my phone with me and my iphone's camera seems to be able to make do with less light. That coupled with longer days means more pictures! Which in turn means more posts! Yeah!

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