Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pesto Pasta Salad

     When we went to Italy several years ago, I tasted pesto for the first time in a little hotel in the Cinque Terre and loved it!  The tour guide had arranged a demonstration on making pesto because that is one of the specialties in that part of Italy.  When I saw how easy it was to make, I decided right then I would be growing basil so that I could try duplicating the wonderful taste of fresh pesto.
     Last year my basil didn't do well, so I have been looking forward to a new crop this year.  A couple of days ago I noticed the four plants I have growing had almost enough leaves to make pesto, and then the weekly email came from Cook's Illustrated highlighting a Pesto Pasta Salad.  I could hardly wait to get to the grocery store for pine nuts and baby spinach so I could try it!  My basil had only grown enough to produce two cups of leaves so I had to reduce the recipe ingredients by one third, which still made a large amount of salad.
     Of course, as soon as I put the salad together, I had to taste it.  I was so hungry for pesto that I couldn't wait for it to cool completely in the refrigerator.  It was wonderful lukewarm, so I imagine it will be even better cold.  If it isn't, I'll let you know.  I'm thinking it also would be really good with cooked chicken added to serve as a main dish.
    For any pesto lovers out there--I highly recommend this salad!  (I also posted the recipe under "Salads" on the "Recipes" page.)

Pesto Pasta Salad
     Bring 4 quarts of water and 1 T. salt to a boil.  Drop in 2 cloves garlic and blanch 1 minute.  Remove garlic and set it aside, then add 1 lb. Farfalle pasta to the boiling water.  Cook till well done—about 12 minutes.  Drain pasta and toss with 1 T. olive oil.  Spread on baking sheet to cool.
     Add to food processor:
3 c. basil leaves
1 c. baby spinach leaves
¼ c. olive oil
2 T. lemon juice
½ t. pepper
¼ c. pine nuts
1 t. salt
¾ c. (1 ½ oz.) fresh grated Parmesan
6 T. mayonnaise
    Process till smooth.
    Add cooled pasta to large bowl.  Toss with 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on size and preference.  Add pesto mixture and ½ c. toasted pine nuts.  Mix well and refrigerate till well chilled.


Anonymous said...

Sounds yummy! When you say to "blanche" the garlic, what does that mean?

Country Girl said...

It means to cook slightly in boiling water.

FYI: Often when freezing vegetables--like green beans--it is recommended to blanch them first, i.e. drop them in boiling water for 2 or 3 minutes before then placing them in ice water to cool quickly and then placing the vegetables in freezer bags and into the freezer. Hope this explanation helps. :o)