Have I ever told you that at one time in my life I did not care much for Italian food? Seriously! I really did not care for it! Oh I liked pizza! That was always good. But pastas... Meehhhh. Marinara bored me and was just not very good. Pesto was horrific. Alfredo was good for about one bite and then felt heavy. They were just there and never fabulous. And really the only thing I thought of as Italian was pasta and pizza. That was in high school. And then I went to Italy the summer after Junior year! Oh boy! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! I could not get enough. After eating so much I was nearly comatosed at lunch, I lay there and counted the hours until dinnertime. I adored the pasta. I loved the pasta in France, Austria and Switzerland too!
My tastes must have changed. So I came back to the US ready to embrace Italian food and slurp it up with gusto. But the next time I had spaghetti... Meehhh! Blah, boring, blech, nadda. I was not interested. What was the difference? Why did I like it there?
It didn't take long to figure it out. Here at home I was used to mostly marinara sauce from a jar and dry pasta that was cooked a bit longer than the proper al dente. Or places like the Old Spaghetti Factory. It isn't horrible food there or anything but it is so... American? Or? Just not like the tiny little restaurants I frequented in Italy. In Italy, it was all very fresh, very good ingredients. The sauces were often simple but you could taste the ingredients and they did not overpower the noodles. The pasta was al dente.... just the right amount of bite to it and not the limp kind I was accustomed to. The portions were also smaller. Pasta is not the MAIN course but a small first plate. I don't want a huge portion of pasta normally.
Now I think you can find decent pasta at restaurants sometimes. Americans started catching on to the fact that the pasta should be al dente. Home chefs often began making their own sauces. It is definitely better. But it will never be the same as in Italy... How could it?
So when I make pasta, I always make my own sauces. It is really quite easy and doesn't take much longer than opening up a jar. I do use the dry noodles most of the time. It is easier to just have it on hand. My Italian friends use them. It is just important not to cook them too long. Once in a while I even use a jar of pre-prepared marinara or red sauce. It is palatable. But I can rarely leave it alone. I almost always doctor it up. Unless I am just making it for the kids. But when it comes to pesto sauce, I have tried jar after jar after jar and really I can barely stand to eat a bite. It is never good. I went back to the supposition that I really just don't care for pesto. Until I made my own! What else was I to do with some sad wilted basil?
After I whirred together a few simple fresh ingredients, I stirred it into some homemade pasta from my farmer's market. The pasta was warm and perfectly al dente. I took a bite. My eyes closed. Imagine a chorus of Alleluias swirling my head. This was heavenly! And so easy!
Simple Fresh Pesto
2-3 cups fresh basil leaves
2-6 cloves of garlic (I like a lot so I use 5 or 6 cloves)
2-3 Tbls. pine nuts
1/4-1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan
Olive Oil (amount is determined by what consistency you prefer)
Salt and pepper to taste
In a food processor, blend the basil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan. With the processor going, slowly add the olive oil scraping down the sides occasionally. Keep adding the oil until the pesto is the consistency you desire.
At this point I taste the sauce and decide if it needs more garlic, nuts, basil or cheese. Add and adjust to your taste along with the salt and pepper.
Best if used immediately but it should store in the refridgerator for up to a week. But really it is better right away. I do not heat it directly on the stove. Simply stir it into warm pasta. Or put it on top of some bread or pizza or an egg or a sandwich or... I am sure there are many things it would work well with.
I am dedicating this pesto to my friend Peter (and Kimberly) because I wish this is what I had made for him and Kimberly when I brought food over a few weeks ago. Instead I brought some curry soup that I felt was just not up to par. Not sure what was wrong with it.
So Kimberly, please try this for your husband. It is easy!