Basil pesto is one of those dishes that is good from a grocery store shelf, amazing when made from scratch with ingredients purchased from the grocery store or farmers market, but pure heaven when made from basil picked minutes earlier from the garden. So imagine my excitement when I stumbled across 4 forgotten basil plants in my mother’s garden last week. There they were, bushy with leaves the size of Roma tomatoes, begging to be harvested. I was only half way through harvesting the 2nd plant and I already had enough basil for a simple pesto recipe. The rest could wait to be harvested later, when inspiration struck again.
I then tossed the pesto with small pasta shapes, some white beans, and red pepper (for color) to make a light, flavor-packed dinner for a week night when you are short on time.
This simple recipe has less oil than the store bought recipe because I use lemon juice in the recipe, which allows me to cut the amount of olive oil. The lemon juice also adds a brightness and flavor complexity that would be missing from the recipe since I don’t use nuts.
2 cups, tightly packed, fresh basil leaves
3 cloves of garlic
juice of half a lemon
¼ cup quality olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh Asiago cheese, shredded
½ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1) Wash basil leaves in cool water and use a clean towel to pat dry.
2) Put basil leaves, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt in a small food processor and process until smooth. Add garlic cloves – whole – and shredded cheese and process until they “disappear” into the basil puree.
2) Use immediately, store in an air tight container for 3-4 days in the fridge, or freeze for up to 3 months.
Pasta and Beans with Pesto
1 cup uncooked small pasta shapes (such as ditalini, orzo, or one of the Barilla mini pasta shapes)
1 16-oz can navy beans
1 large red pepper, diced into quarter inch pieces
basil pesto, approximately ½ a cup
1) Cook pasta according to package directions.
2) While water is boiling, use a strainer to drain and rinse navy beans.
3) When pasta is almost done, with about 2-3 minutes of cooking left, add beans to the water to heat through.
4) Drain pasta and beans, pour into a serving bowl and toss with red pepper. Add basil pesto, stir to coat.
5) Serve hot with additional shredded cheese or cold as a side dish.