Aug 7, 2010

Basic Pesto Pasta

Pesto Pasta!

Monday marks the two week point for starting my masters in public policy!! I graduated in May from undergrad and took the summer completely off from school and while I’ve loved it, I’m also anxiously awaiting my time back in class. It’s different starting grad school though. I’m headed back to good ole GaTech so instead of the excitement of a new school, new place, I’m simply changing sides of the campus: headed from the science side of campus to the liberal arts. For me, the biggest change is the parking lot I use! I have no big “move in” date scheduled as I am and have been settled in my nice little apartment for almost a year now. So no packed to the brim car trip for me! All in all, a college campus has been my second home for the past few years so for me it’d be more weird to not head right back for that next step!

With the start of school however, adds another thing to the juggling act and that brings the importance of fast, delicious dinners to an even greater level. I am lucky that Jor loves to cook as much as I do, and therefore is more than willing to help out in the kitchen on those hectic nights. But even so, he’s got things to do as well so that’s when we are almost forced to make one of the quick meals. I have to say though, Jor is such a fast cook that our list of “fast meals” when he is cooking is much more extensive than if I were wearing the apron that night!

One of our favorite quick pasta meals is pesto pasta! It’s extremely fast and simple but it can completely turn plain jane pasta into a dish that is bold with flavor and color! You can buy pre-made pesto at the store and while that may be the definition of fast, I think it’s also the definition of spending too much on something. At Whole Foods in particular, a carton of their pesto is definitely on the pricey side for something that literally takes 3 minutes to throw together. You can make it cheaper and exactly to your liking in half the price and half the time that it takes you to go to the store and even pick up the pesto!

You’ll only need a handful of ingredients to put together this pesto!


(Adapted from my Mom! Makes enough for two dinner portions and one leftover lunch.)

  • 1- 1 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 1/8 cup pine nuts (or walnuts as a substitute)
  • 1/4- 1/3 cup fresh parmesan cheese
  • 1 garlic clove
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup orecchiette pasta
  • 1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes (or more)
  • chicken (optional)

Pesto Ingredients: basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, salt and pepper, and olive oil.

Putting the pesto together is a piece of cake and you’ll be done in a matter of five minutes! Therefore, it’s actually best to go ahead and get the pasta cooking. Bring a pot of water to a boil on the stove and let the oriecchiette cook for 10-12 minutes. Give it a an occasional stir from time to time to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom or to each other and then turn your attention to the pesto.

The big Cuisinart is shown here but when we are at my place I prefer to use my mini! It gets the job done when you’re just making pesto for two! Start by rinsing your fresh basil, pat it dry and then put it in the mixer. I give the garlic clove a rough drop or you can even use some garlic powder if you would rather. Add the fresh parmesan cheese (the fresh makes a huge difference in taste!), pine nuts, and salt and pepper and then go ahead and turn the mixer on and get the dry ingredients chopped. It should only take a few seconds. You may have to turn it off in between mixes just to scrape the sides down and get everything completely mixed. All that is left to add is the olive oil. I only use a tablespoon when I make this for the two of us, but you can definitely add more. It’s all about what kind of texture are you going for. We prefer our pesto more choppy and less like a sauce. But, if you prefer the opposite it’s still going to look and taste great so go for it!

Pesto mixed and complete in about 3 minutes!

When everything has been added, be sure to do a taste test and make sure everything tastes exactly as you like it!

To put the rest of this meal together, we add halved cherry or grape tomatoes and some chicken for protein.

The addition of chicken turns this from a dish to a full meal!

Pre-pesto addition!

Toss everything into the pasta pot and give it a good toss and your dinner is ready! (Scroll back to the beginning for finished results!) Another great thing about pesto, besides it being easy to put together quickly, is how versatile it is! We used pine nuts in this recipe but you can easily substitute for another nut such as a walnut. We’ve also made some other wonderful pestos that I’ll share with y’all soon, such as a pistachio pesto, tarragon and hazelnut pesto and a zucchini pistou! You’ll love them all!

As you can see, there was little effort put in this meal! The longest part is just boiling the pasta and I think most people in a rush go the pasta route but don’t think they can spruce it up with anything special when they’re on the run. Instead of grabbing for that jar of marinara sauce in your cabinet, put fresh basil and pine nuts on your grocery list and make this instead. It’s much more satisfying and has such a wonderful flavor that cooking a good meal quickly will no longer be an issue! For now, that’s basic pesto pasta…in the shell of a nut!

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