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Red & Green: Pasta with Fresh Pesto and Roasted Peppers

June 13, 2006

Pesto and Pasta

When basil flourishes, make pesto. I have two plants exploding out of their pots, one on the tiny back porch of my apartment, and one on the front stoop. They gulp water desperately in the Florida heat and humidity, sagging like cartoon plants under a yellow cartoon sun every day around 4:00, when I revive them again with a stream of water. And then they reward me with handfuls and handfuls of good green spicy basil. I can smell it every day as I turn my key in the door.

I needed to make a side dish for a potluck and so I turned to my generous basil, finally whipping up a batch of pesto for this warm, oozy, and crunchy pasta salad. I used walnuts in the pesto because that's what I had around, but another handful of tender oily walnuts make a nice texture, crunching here and there in the pasta. And then a batch of roasted red peppers for color and deep, savory taste - charred and salty and then cooked slowly until silky in balsamic vinegar and garlic. Tossed all together they make a deeply satisfying dish of pasta, suitable as a side dish to some roasted chicken - or all on its own with a green salad and cold, crisp glass of wine.

Pesto and Pasta

Pasta with Fresh Pesto, Roasted Red Peppers, and Goat Cheese

Basil-Walnut Pesto
4 cups packed fresh basil leaves, washed well
0.5 cup walnuts
0.5 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 1 1/2 ounces)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
0.25 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. In a food processor purée basil with remaining ingredients until smooth.
2. Season with salt and pepper. Pesto may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, its surface covered with plastic wrap.

Oven Roasted Red Peppers with Balsamic Vinegar
4 large red bell peppers
Olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced crosswise
0.25 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Red pepper flakes

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Toss peppers with 1/4 cup olive oil in bowl and transfer them to large rimmed baking sheet.
3. Roast peppers until partially charred, turning every 10 minutes, about 50 minutes.
4. Transfer peppers to reserved bowl; cover tightly with plastic wrap. Cool 15 minutes.
5. Peel and seed peppers over bowl. Tear each pepper lengthwise into 6 strips. (Good luck doing this without burning your fingers! I had to rinse the torn peppers over the sink in cool water to get all the seeds out. Next time I will cut them in half and seed them before roasting.)
6. Transfer pepper strips to heavy large skillet. Strain liquid from bowl into skillet. Add garlic, vinegar, red pepper, and 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil to skillet. Simmer over medium heat until liquid becomes syrupy, stirring frequently, about 25 minutes. Cool. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover; let stand at room temperature.)

1 pound of pasta, preferably something small and ridged that will hold the pesto and cheese well
Extra walnuts, if desired
A chunk of good goat cheese (at least 4 oz.)
1 batch of pesto
1 batch of roasted red peppers

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions to al dente texture. Reserve half a cup of the cooking water.
2. Toss the pasta with a little olive oil, the red peppers and their sauce, pesto mixed with the pasta water, and a crumbled chunk of goat cheese. Throw in some toasted walnuts for crunch, if desired.
3. Taste and add some salt and pepper, if necessary.

Posted by Faith at 13 June 2006

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This looks fantastic! Some of my favorite flavors. Question. What kind of pasta is that exactly? What is the name? I love it. That shape is so interesting - perfect for trapping sauce.

Posted by: Grant at June 13, 2006 12:55 PM

I found the pasta in the cheese and olive section at Whole Foods. It's Bella Cucina's version of fiori pasta. Cut by "antique dies in Italy" or whatever. It was expensive, although I didn't pay as much as they charge on their website, but I liked the shape, and it was really good. Very delicate, tender texture.

Posted by: faith at June 13, 2006 01:29 PM

my basil plants are doing the same thing
i water in the evening, and by the time i'm home from work, they're thirsty again, but they're so worth the maintenance!

Posted by: ann at June 18, 2006 10:15 AM

Looks delicious and sounds very lovely too.

Posted by: mae at June 20, 2006 04:28 AM

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