Monday, January 3, 2011

Basil Pesto with Home Made Pasta

I remember the first time my taste buds had the pleasure of indulging in such goodness.  Coming from an Italian back round on my mom's side she had introduced me to these wonderful ingredients at a young age.  Pesto in my opinion fairly easy to make.  I've tried store bought stuff before and it was disgusting, plus there is usually other "stuff" in it.  The basic ingredients for a basil pesto are -
2 tbsp of pine nuts
3-4 garlic cloves
About 2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves
2 tbsp of grated Parmesan cheese
Dash of salt
100mL (a little less than a half cup {.42 cup to be exact}) of extra virgin olive oil, or plain olive oil.

Toast and roughly chop the pine nuts.  Finely chop the garlic.  Roughly chop the basil leaves. 
I use a pestle and mortar but a food processor could be used as well making it easier but taking the fun out, plus they didn't have those fancy machines back then.  I also get a level of satisfaction doing it the old fashioned way.  Add the basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic and salt to the mortar.  Using the pestle start to grind away until it forms a paste like substance.  Add the parmesan cheese and grind until incorporated.  Slowly add the oil and mix together.  Presto you have pesto!!

I also like to make my own pasta from scratch.  It's fun, tastes good and it's easy!  I buy pasta flour here in England but you could use AP flour (I personally thought the pasta was a little heavy with it though).   Another alternative is 00 flour.  

250-300g of flour (about 2.5 cups)
3 eggs
Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs.  Beat with fork gradually pulling in flour.  After it begins to come together some, start kneading it by hand.  
Knead for 5 minutes or so working it with your hands to develop the gluten in the flour.   Your pasta will be ready when it starts to feel smooth and silky instead of rough and floury.  Wrap it in cling film and set in the fridge for 30 minutes.  
Now you're ready to roll it out.  I do it the old school Italian way using a rolling pin, but a pasta machine could also be used.  Cut the dough in half so it's easier to roll, sprinkle some flour on the counter and rolling pin and then get down to business.  Roll, rotate, flip, roll, rotate, and repeat a bunch of times (add a little flour if it begins to stick).  I try to roll my dough into a circle or close to.  How thin you may ask?  Well I just eye it really, though it is pretty thin - enough to see the counter through it.  Once rolled out, fold it in half 5 times or so.  Cut into strips depending how wide you want them.  
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta in batches.  Once it rises to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon. 
Now that everything is prepared, time to throw it all together.  I sauteed up some shrimp in EVOO and garlic for my protein.  Another good alternative is chicken.  Place the pasta in a bowl, add the shrimp and pesto and toss together making sure the pesto is evenly distributed.  Sprinkle with more parmesan cheese if desired.  

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