Thursday, June 21, 2018

Pesto Pasta is a Summertime Superfood!

By Cal Orey

Welcome to a Pesto Pasta, a scrumptious summery hot (or cold) dish that has a history that goes back to the ancient Roman era. It is a green paste put together by mixing basil, garlic, salt, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and olive oil.  Pine nuts to walnuts have been included. Mint leaves as a garnish and even grape tomatoes served on pasta make it complete as a side dish or light meal.
This week I was talking with an acquaintance who said to me, “My move was a horrific experience! You have no clue.” I listened. I took a deep breath, biting my tongue so I wouldn’t snap back. Later, while munching on a dish of cold homemade Pesto Pasta I went back in time.
During the summer of 1999, I took the leap of faith, packed up my stuff including a senior dog and cat, and moved to the mountains. It was 105 degrees driving through Sacramento, the SUV’s AC fizzled, and I lost my dear fish Shakespeare. The moving men dumped my belongings on the deck at dusk to make it down the hill before dark. But I made the trek and embraced novelty.
Back to present-day, I realized the change forced me to be more self-reliant. As I finished the pasta I thought, “Gosh, years ago I’d buy the deli type.” And so it goes. Experiencing newness is good but getting there is well, spooky, kind of like making a dish you haven’t made before.  But once you dive in like swimming in a pool or lake, and just do it you may be pleasantly surprised how easy it is to do.
So, here is an extremely easy budget-friendly pesto pasta plate to create in the comfort of your home. It’s San Francisco Bay Area-inspired since I used to order it hot at my favorite Italian restaurant and cold at the grocery store deli.
DIY Pesto Pasta

1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup olive oil
¾ cup grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced 
Pepper and sea salt to taste 
Whole grain pasta, cooked (spaghetti or rotini, preferred)
½ cup Parmesan cheese 
Fresh mint or parsley sprigs
In a blender or food processor, chop and puree basil, garlic and olive oil. Blend well. Add spices, fold in tomatoes. Top ½ cup pesto on top of a serving of pasta. Toss with pasta or leave as is. Sprinkle with cheese. Garnish with mint or parsley. Makes 4. Serve with fresh French bread with European-style butter of olive oil. Sometimes almonds or walnuts are used instead of pine nuts. The flavor of pesto is different than tomato sauce. When I first tasted it (my godmother made it) I developed a love-hate relationship with green noodles. But as time passed, my palate grew up and the rest is history. Pairing juicy tomatoes, cheese with a nutty taste make it even more pleasing and something to write home about.  Don't forget the iced tea and lemon!
I’ll never forget the move to the Sierra, something that came to fruition since I was in my twenties, bit by bit, until I made it happen. Whether it’s a major move or changing your eating style and cooking up a dish you never thought you could do yourself—it’s real life. Go ahead hit the kitchen and get to know pesto pasta. You’ll be glad you did.

-- Cal Orey, M.A. Is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, and Superfoods--pre-order for Fall!) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is

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