Simple Basil Pesto Pasta

This simple sauce is one of our family staple recipes that my children are always happy to eat.

Pesto is completely forgiving.  I have not used a recipe for years, just adding the various nuts and cheese I have in my refrigerator to the blanched basil.  Today I used Parmesan and almonds but have used Manchego, Asiago or Romano and pinenuts, walnuts or hazelnuts.  I also love to match the oil with the nut, using an almond, walnut or hazelnut oil.  I actually measured everything I place in the food processor and it was perfect so now you have the recipe.  To avoid the basil from turning dark after I process it, I blanched it for 10 seconds.  Eight cups of basil turned into a cup and a half after blanching and my pesto has been on my counter for two hours but is still brilliant green.  No need to blanch the basil if you plan on using it immediately or if you cover the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil to protect the color and avoid the oxidation.  The blog associated with this recipe is here.

Serves 8

8 cups lightly packed basil leaves, about three bunches
1 garlic clove
2/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted in a 350 degree oven for 7 minutes
¾ cup grated Parmesan Reggiano
1 teaspoon salt
½ to ¾ cup best tasting olive oil, but not to strong

Optional step for the basil to avoid darkening:  bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Make a water bath of water and ice.  Once the water is boiling add all of the basil and blanch for 10 seconds (do not worry if the water does not come back to a boil).  Using a skimmer, remove the basil and place in the water bath to stop the cooking.  Save the water to boil the pasta. Squeeze the basil dry and place between paper towels to dry completely.

In a food processor, chop the garlic clove until completely minced.  Add the basil (blanched or fresh), toasted almonds, Parmesan, salt and ¼ cup of the oil; process until completely ground.  With the motor running, slowly add the remaining oil until completely emulsified.

Bring the basil water back to a boil, adding enough salt to make it taste like the sea; add pasta and boil until done, about 9 minutes depending on your pasta choice.  Dip a glass measuring cup into the boiling water to capture some salted pasta water.  Drain the pasta and add back to the pot.  Add half the pesto and a few tablespoons of the pasta water and stir to coat.  Taste and add enough pesto to fully flavor the pasta, adding more pasta water to make a creamy sauce.  You may not need all of the pesto.  Garnish with parmesan cheese and/or toasted almonds.

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