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May 28, 2010 > Pesto with Pasta

Pesto with Pasta

By Suzanne Ortt
Photos By Doris Nikolaidis

Let's start with the word pesto, its origin and its definition. The word originates from "pesta," which means to pound or crush. All ingredients in this sauce, basil, garlic, nuts, are crushed, modern style. Pesto sauce began in Genoa in the Liguria region of northern Italy. Historic uses of basil were in ancient Rome, India, and North Africa. Today pesto is made, with variations, all around the world.

Basil, long popular, was known as the "royal herb" in ancient Greece. Be clever, grow your own basil. Here's how. Planting seeds is preferable to budding plants. Plant seeds in containers, place in a sunny window or outside, or sprinkle the seeds in a garden plot. Lightly cover with soil. After the plants grow to two inches, thin to six - ten inches apart. Soil needs to drain well and plants need a warm location. Water well; keep moist. After harvesting your basil, you are ready to make your own pesto.

Fresh Pesto:
3 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
1 -1/2 cups chopped walnuts or roasted pine nuts or a combination
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1-cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor (not the traditional mortar and pestle), blend together basil leaves, nuts, garlic, and cheese. Slowly add the oil, while still mixing. Stir in salt and pepper. Voila, you have pesto.

Variations Add 1 cup fresh parsley leaves and 2 cups fresh basil.
Try with 1 or 2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro. Another choice is adding 2 tablespoons of fresh mint. Complement the walnuts with a few roasted pine nuts. Substitute pecans for the walnuts or use ? of each. Be adventurous, try almonds.

Pesto Pasta:
Serve this fragrant dish with a green salad and Italian bread.

1-pound pasta (your choice)
1-cup pesto (If you do not want to make your own, it is available in grocery stores.
1-cup fresh raw spinach, torn into pieces
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated

Heat a large pot of water to boiling; add pasta, lower to medium. Stir. Cook about 10 minutes until al dente. Drain.
Mix pasta, pesto, and spinach in serving bowl. Garnish with nuts and grated cheese.

Eat up; savor the aroma and taste of basil.

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