Basil, Pesto and Snails
I spent the summer fixated on my herb garden or to be more precise, the basil growing in front and cordoned off with a small trench containing snail-discouraging material (ok, slug and snail bait.) Sorry if I just ruined the visual here but past experience has taught me this is one necessary step. And yes, I could eat them – the snails – since someone published an article about cleaning the pests last year but basil is so much tastier when it becomes PESTO!
By late August my work paid off and I had enough basil to start my annual pesto assembly line. First, I gently toasted the pine nuts so as not to burn them, and then set up the garlic, basil, nuts, salt, pepper, cheese and oil all in a line on my dining room table. I assigned a friend to be the food processing engineer and quality assurance taster (not too much salt or oil) and with a push of the pulse button we whirred our way to pesto production. While the entire process always seems a little labor intensive, most of the work is in the ingredient preparation stages. Once we swung into action the whole process took a fast hour to complete.
Many tubs of pesto - lodged securely in my freezer - later, we participated in the ultimate taste test. We whipped up a batch of fusilli pesto and marveled at the activity of the day. For me, it’s another annual food ritual which captures a bit of summer to save for a rainy, cold Northern California day (and yes, it DOES get cold in California!) Next up, chili and pumpkin ravioli – yum!
3 large garlic cloves
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano, coarsely grated (about 2/3 cup)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups loosely packed basil
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
With food processor running, drop in garlic and finely chop. Stop motor and add nuts, cheese, salt, pepper and basil then process until finely chopped. With motor running, add oil, blending until incorporated.
For pasta with pesto: put 2/3 cup pesto in a large bowl and cook 1 pound linguine or spaghetti until al dente, then whisk about 1/3 cup pasta cooking water into pesto. Add drained pasta to thinned pesto with salt and pepper to taste and toss well. Serve with additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Pesto keeps, its surface covered with plastic wrap, chilled, 1 week.
Recipe by Amy Mastrangelo, Epicurious.
"Fusilli Pesto and Tomato Pasta"