...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)


pesto pasta

I managed to catch up on reading my backlog of food magazines this summer...
The recipe that captivated me more than any other was this pesto alla genovese recipe 
from La Cucina Italiana.
I have never seen a pesto that was so silky or so... verdant... so... light green.
 Apparently Paola Laboa, the creator of this recipe, 
has won top honors at the Genova World Pesto Competition.

So, if I did nothing else this summer I knew I had to try making it...!

Luckily my friend Sarah called me up and offered me some basil from her garden,
just as I had decided it was time to make it. (thanks again, Sarah!)

This is how:
First you pop your blender in the freezer.
(the recipe calls for glass, which luckily we have).

Prep 6 loosely packed cups of basil leaves.
(preferably Sweet Genovese)
While your blender is chilling out in the freezer, this is the deal with the basil:
You soak it in cold water. 
You do this 3x for 5 minutes each time, changing the water and rinsing the bowl each time 
and lifting the basil up gently by hand at each change-out.
Then you soak the basil the last time for 15 minutes in cold water.
(the idea behind this is not just to clean the leaves, but to pull out any bitterness, etc.)
 get your chilly blender out
 add 1/3 cup of pine nuts 
(go for real Italian for authenticity and health reasons... 
NOT the Chinese ones... read up on "pine nut mouth" and "pine nut syndrome" 
and you'll be happy to pay more per pound).
and 1/3 of a clove of garlic
cover with 1/3 cup high quality extra-virgin olive oil
then puree
and then add 1 teaspoon of flakey salt
beautiful flakes

Lucky us, we even have a local salt around here...!
This is mined from salt veins deep beneath Seneca Lake.

Now, the basil:
Lift a handful of basil, shake off excess water and place it in your blender.
The directions call for a few short pulses to puree, 
but I found that my blender just didn't cut it for this.
It wasn't incorporating the basil well at all, so I had to blend much longer. 
After you've incorporated all of the basil, then it's time for the cheese.
 The recipe calls for 1/3 cup each 
(have you noticed a theme here, most things are in thirds...)
of freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
AND fiore sardo OR pecorino toscano
(It cautions against pecorino romano, which is too salty.)
I couldn't find any fiore sardo or pecorino toscano, 
so I went with a nice grana padano from our local Wegmans.
Puree just enough to combine.
Making the pesto made me want pasta right away.
I had never had chitarra, and it really turned out to be a GREAT companion to the pesto.  
Not too big, not too small.  Just right.
It's a Goldilocks moment. 
Love it.
Chitarra is sort of like a square spaghetti.  It's got a bit more substance.  
It's made on a beautiful wooden board with so many strings 
that it looks like an heirloom musical instrument.

This chitarra had great mouth feel and 
al dente, it was gorgeously chewy and a total pleasure to eat.  
Super satisfying.
Music in the mouth.
 I was stumped about how to get it to be so silky like in the photo from the magazine
and the key seems to be at least somewhat in the pasta process.

 When you're boiling your pasta, take out a little bit of the hot water and put it in the bowl
you will toss your pasta in.  Whisk it with your pesto and it becomes really luscious.
 Then marry the two.

 When it was all said and done,
my pesto pasta did not come out anywhere nearly as silky 
as it looked in the magazine photo,
maybe it was because my blender didn't quite do the job 
but whatever, I'm not complaining.  
Delicious is delicious!

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