I plant a container garden each summer and the one thing I can always count on is basil. It grows like a weed in my backyard every single year.
My basil was needing a trim, so I went out and got two packed cups and came right in to make Jacques Pepin's Spicy Basil Pesto.
Pepin says, "Conventionally pesto is made with pine nuts, but here I use pecans, along with a jalapeno, for a distinctive effect. You may want to double or triple the recipe for the pesto. It is very good on grilled fish or meat, as a delicious flavoring for baked potatoes, or as a topping for other pastas. It will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. Be sure to cover it with a piece of plastic wrap, pressing it down so it touches the surface of the pesto. "Blanching" the basil and the parsley in a microwave helps prevent them from discoloring when the pesto is held for a few hours."
I love that Pepin changes up the classic pesto by using pecans in place of pine nuts. I also love the idea of adding a jalapeno (also fresh from the garden)! I have to say this pesto was one of the tastiest pesto recipes I've ever made. I loved the slight heat from the jalapeno and the pecans seemed to give the pesto a little more body than normal. I found 5 cloves of garlic was just right and everything came together perfectly.
Mixing pesto into pasta is likely a personal preference. Some people might like more or less pesto than others. Pepin has you mix the pesto with one pound of pasta which really stretches the pesto out and makes the flavor more subtle. If you wanted a more pronounced pesto flavor, then you'd want to make a double batch of pesto, or use less pasta.
We enjoyed this pesto over angel hair pasta and found it to be incredibly light, like a cloud. A true summer pasta dish, if there ever was one.
I am a HUGE fan of this pesto recipe. In fact, it may be my favorite of all time. I will definitely make it again!
Spaghettini with Spicy Basil Pesto
Adapted from Essential Pepin
by Jacques Pepin
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup tightly packed fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pecans
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 small jalapeno pepper, cut in half and seeded
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound spaghettini
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
hot pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot.
For The Pesto: Put the basil and parsley in a plastic bag and microwave on high for 1 minute. Transfer, while still hot, to a blender and add the Parmesan cheese, nuts, garlic, and jalapeno pepper. Process for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is finely purred. Add the oil and process for a few more seconds. (You should have about 1-1/2 cups). Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
Add the spaghettini to the boiling water, stir well, and cook for 8 to 9 minutes, until tender but still slightly al dente.
Scoop out 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid and mix it with the pesto. Drain the pasta well and add it to the sauce, along with the salt, and black pepper to taste. Toss and serve immediately, with hot pepper flakes, if desired, and the grated Parmesan cheese.
Summer Harvest @ IHCC