Smile Politely

Recreating Pesto Pasta

On our recent trip to Italy, I tasted a simple pasta dish with pesto sauce that changed my perception of Italian food. The memory of that dish stayed with me. When we got home, I immediately set out to try to recreate it. After several attempts, I think I have come fairly close.

Fresh basil is the key ingredient in pesto sauce. Fortunately, it’s already basil season at the farmer’s market and I discovered that one bundle of Blue Moon Farm’s basil will make enough sauce to serve six people. Since pesto sauce keeps fairly well in the refrigerator, feel free to double or triple the recipe because you’ll run out sooner than you think.

The Italians love garlic and so do I. Since pesto sauce isn’t really cooked (just warmed), I make a point to sauté the garlic first because raw garlic is just a little too sharp for my taste. This recipe is a little oilier than the bottled variety because the sauce is intended for pasta and to truly coat the pasta well, you need a lot of olive oil.

The secret to this recipe is freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Trust me, no substitution will do. In fact, to make grating the cheese easier, we even invested in a rotary cheese grater which we found at Target.


Spaghetti with Pesto
(Preparation time: 30 minutes; serves 6)

  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp pine nuts
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1½ cup fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 lb thick spaghetti (no. 7)
  • water
  • salt
  1. Using a large skillet, lightly sauté the garlic in olive oil, turn off flame
  2. Add pine nuts and salt to the olive oil and garlic, then blend in a food processor until the mixture looks like a paste
  3. Slowly add one handful of basil leaves at a time and blend until the basil is finely chopped, repeat until all the basil is processed
  4. Transfer the sauce back to the skillet and stir in the cheese
  5. Cook the spaghetti in a pot of salted boiling water until done (about 12 minutes)
  6. When the spaghetti is almost done, warm the sauce in the skillet under low flame
  7. Drain the spaghetti and toss it with the sauce in the skillet until thoroughly coated (tip: add a little water if needed)
  8. Serve with freshly grated cheese on top (optional)

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