Meatless Monday: Basil Pesto

On one of my excursions to Chelsea Market, I picked up a couple of bunches of gorgeous basil.  I was buying something else but the fragrant basil leaves called to me and I couldn’t help but buy some!

I decided to make pesto because it is a great make-ahead item.  I could make a batch and use some the same day and freeze the rest for a later date.  We were having my brother and his family over and were planning on having a simple barbecue — hamburgers and hot dogs.  I had bought a bunch of salads but wanted to make something.  So I decided to toss some of the pesto with whole wheat penne for a simple pasta salad.  I chilled the pasta salad and everyone loved it!

I followed the pesto recipe below which is a pretty typical basil pesto recipe but I doubled it so I would have some leftover for the freezer.  I actually intend to defrost the pesto this week, marinade some chicken breasts in the pesto, and grill them up on my grill pan for a quick and easy dinner.

Pesto alla Genovese
Emeril Lagasse

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound dried or fresh farfalle pasta

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the basil, salt, and pepper and process for a few seconds until the basil is chopped. Add the cheese, pine nuts, and garlic and, while the processor is running, add the oil in a thin, steady stream until a mostly smooth sauce is formed. Transfer pesto to a bowl and set aside. (Note: Pesto may be made 1 day in advance and kept, refrigerated, in an airtight container, until ready to use. If making in advance, be sure to cover the top of the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent the pesto from darkening. Pesto may also be frozen in the same manner in small quantities for use at a later date.)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook, according to package directions, until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. In a large bowl, toss pasta with pesto. Add a little of the reserved cooking liquid if pasta seems to dry. Serve immediately.

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