Hot weather dining: Slightly spicy, very garlicky pesto

basilThe past couple of weeks in Boston have been hot. Very, very hot. And while I do like summer a lot, and enjoy warm weather more the older I get (I joke now that I totally get why seniors move to Florida), the temps these past weeks–mid 90s–have been even a bit high for me to enjoy, coupled as they are with very high humidity most days.

Cooking dinner in this type of weather is not easy. There’s only so many salads one can eat, though, so cooking something is inevitable some nights. This weekend I was able to grab some great stuff at the farmer’s market on Union Square, including a gorgeous bunch of basil that was just screaming to be made into pesto.pesto

I don’t make pesto often, because it does take a little work. I don’t use a food processor or blender, because I want a bit of texture in the sauce. I chop it by hand, like an Italian grandmother, and even though it’s more work the results are soooo much better. A good sharp knife is all you need, and about 10 minutes of patient chopping. I’ve read that a mezzaluna is the preferred tool, but I don’t own one.

So last night, with temps in our condo still in the high 80s around 7PM, this no-cook sauce (made earlier in the day, and refrigerated), became our dinner, tossed with some whole wheat linguine and fresh asparagus.linguine pesto

Recipes abound online for a basic pesto, but because we love garlic, and like everything with a bit of heat, this recipe is tweaked for our tastes. Vary amounts as you like it, and leave out the crushed pepper if you don’t want any heat, but don’t even think about using anything but freshly grated cheese.

Sara’s slightly spicy, very garlicky pesto

  • one large bunch basil, washed & dried, leaves only
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • small handful (about 1/4 cup) pine nuts
  • couple of pinches of crushed red pepper
  • 3/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated
  • extra virgin olive oil, about 3T

Smash the garlic cloves with the side of your knife, remove the peel and begin chopping. Add a handful of  the basil leaves to the pile, chopping until it’s a small-ish rough chop. Add more basil to the pile, chopping again to break down that addition. Keep adding & chopping, until all the basil has been rough-chopped.

with cheese and pine nuts addedAdd the pine nuts, red pepper and cheese and keep chopping; use the knife to keep pulling everything back into a pile, chopping until all the ingredients are in a fine mince, but with some texture. You don’t want baby food, you want to see what you are eating. The entire process takes about 10 minutes.

Press the basil mixture together as tightly as possible and place it into a bowl. Drizzle olive oil over the top to coat the basil.

This can now be set aside until you are ready to eat. If not using for a few hours, or if you kitchen is blazingly hot like mine was, store in the refrigerator.

Stir oil into pesto before using. If serving over pasta, save a bit of the pasta water to thin out the sauce if needed. The amount here was enough for a whole pound of linguine with sauce left over.

Enjoy!

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