Sunday, May 16, 2010


So if I had to pick my absolute favorite food, I'd be hard pressed to find one thing that I love more than pesto. It's something that I've eaten my entire life— one of my earliest memories, food related or otherwise, is sitting at dinner and struggling to twirl spaghetti in emulation of my parents. They had cut up my pasta into bite-sized strands, and I couldn't understand why it kept falling off my tiny fork. When I told my parents that I wanted to neatly twist up the long strands like they did, they stopped cutting my pesto and I became the expert spaghetti twirler you all know today.

I suppose part of the reason I like pesto so much is probably because learning to twirl made me feel like a grown up. That being said, my family's recipe for pesto is reason enough to fall in love. It's fresh and creamy, a little bit nutty, with a kick of garlic and black pepper, and plenty of basil flavor. It's actually pretty standard as pesto goes, but somehow no other iteration ever seems to come close. Some things, mom, (and dad! and nona!), does best. The method is easy, and the recipe is easily doubled for a full pound of pasta or to freeze for later.

Simply bring a pot of water to boil, and add salt and one half pound pasta. Spaghetti, linguini, penne and fusilli are all good choices. Meanwhile, wash one cup of somewhat packed basil and set aside. Combine ¼-⅓ cup olive oil, ¼-⅓ cup water, 3 tablespoons walnuts (or pine nuts if you prefer to splurge), and 1 clove of coarsely chopped garlic in a blender. Blend until smooth. When the pasta is almost ready, add your basil and blend again, until just combined. Finally, add 4 tablespoons grated cheese, (I use romano but parmesan works too) and blend one final time. Before you drain the pasta, reserve some of the pasta water to use in case the pesto is too thick. Serve with plenty of fresh black pepper and extra grated cheese.

pesto ravioli

It was my first time using our new blender for pesto, and it didn't get the sauce as smooth as I am used to. You can see some chunks of walnut and distinct pieces of basil, which isn't how it normally looks. Luckily, this effected the taste very little.

Generally, I don't favor pesto with ravioli. The pesto is such a robust sauce, and the ravioli is such a heavy pasta that I don't feel they make the best match. That being said, when you take delicious cheesy ravioli and amazingly wonderful pesto sauce, things are probably going turn out ok, which they largely did in this case. My basil was a week old and couldn't last another day, and I didn't have much else in the house besides frozen ravioli, so my hand was a bit forced. Even without a meat or protein, some ravioli and a salad made a filling and comforting dinner that I'd be happy to have any day. It is, after all, my favorite food!

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