Cacio e Pepe Pasta (“Cheese and Black Pepper” Pasta)

cacio e pepe pasta

When my days are hectic and busy there is nothing I appreciate more than a quick and easy dinner. This Italian dish, which translated means “cheese and pepper“, is especially great because you don’t even need to boil the water first, you simply add the dry pasta right to a pan, cover with a little cold water and cook! The sauce is also a cinch to make and it consists of basic ingredients that are readily available in almost every home.

This recipe is right from one my favorite chefs, Alton Brown. He does such a great job of explaining the science behind cooking and then he follows up with easy step-by-step directions to create a yummy meal. You can find his original recipe right here . I followed the recipe exactly as written the first time but in subsequent makings, I adjusted down the amount of ground black pepper that is called for. I absolutely love pepper and I put it on everything but I did find that a 2 full tablespoons of pepper was a bit intense and overwhelming, especially for my kids. So I cut that back to only a tablespoon the next few times I made it. My advice is to start with just a small amount and then adjust accordingly as you cook. You can always add more if needed however, it is impossible to take it away once it’s been added. For a more hearty meal you can toss in some sliced grilled chicken or vegetables but it really is a wonderful dish simply as is.

One last note, I have found that the often times the cooking water simmers away before the pasta is finished cooking. If you notice the water getting too low, do not be afraid to add more to the pan, just get it back to a simmer quickly.  You will need at least 3/4 cup of the water to create the cheese sauce so don’t let your pan run dry, keep an eye on your water level. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb dry spaghetti
  • 2 tbs Kosher salt
  • 1-2 tbs ground black pepper
  • 3 oz Pecorino-Romano cheese, finely grated 
  • 1 1/2 oz  Parmesan, finely grated 
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 to 1 cup starchy pasta water

Instructions

Add the dry pasta to a straight sided sauté pan then add the salt and just enough cold water to cover the pasta. Cover and set over medium-high heat.

When the water reaches a boil, remove the lid and decrease heat to medium to maintain a simmer. Stir the pasta every minute or so making sure the ends of the noodles stay submerged and that they aren’t sticking together.

While the pasta cooks, begin the sauce. Combine 1-2 tbs of ground black pepper, the Pecorino, all of the Parmesan and the olive oil in a large, deep mixing bowl. Work ingredients together with the back of a wooden spoon until a thick paste forms.

When the pasta has been simmering for 5 minutes, ladle 1 cup of the hot cooking water into a measuring cup then slowly drizzle 3/4 cup into cheese paste, mixing until smooth.

After the pasta has been cooking for 10 minutes start checking for doneness, you want it to be just barely “al dente” as there will be some carryover cooking in the next step.

Use tongs to lift the pasta out of the cooking water and allow to briefly drain before adding to the cheese paste. Grasp the pasta with the tongs and stir vigorously for 2 minutes (really use a lot of elbow grease here — this is not a light toss). The pasta will continue to release starch and the sauce will emulsify. Around a minute thirty you will see cheesy water magically transform into a proper sauce. If you find your sauce clumping, add a bit more of the pasta water and continue working the pasta.

Portion pasta into 4 bowls, top with a sprinkle of extra grated cheese and ground black pepper and serve hot.

Brown Gravy Meatballs Over Buttered Noodles

gravy meatballs

I absolutely love me some homemade meatballs and I could drink hot gravy by the gallon so I thought to myself, why not bring these two delicious things together? Brown Gravy Meatballs over Buttered Noodles is a really warm, cozy meal that is perfect for the cool nights of autumn. It’s also really easy to make and the best part?……………it’s kid friendly too! What kid doesn’t love buttered pasta and meatballs? My kids devoured this meal and even asked for seconds!

To make the meatballs, I used my Italian Meatball recipe but I just rolled them smaller into bite-sized servings. I like to bake them simply because you don’t have to pay attention as you do when frying but if you prefer to fry, that is perfectly fine too. You can even make these meatballs ahead of time which really speeds up the cooking of this meal. Simply thaw the cooked mini meatballs and add them right to the hot gravy mixture to warm through. So easy!

In our house we LOVE gravy and when making pasta dishes such as this one my husband specifically asks for his noodles to be very “saucy”. Therefore, I like to double the brown gravy so we have plenty to go around and if there are any leftovers, they will stay more moist in the fridge. You can use beef broth in this recipe as well but I much prefer beef stock as it has a much richer, beefier flavor. Kitchen Basics® brand is my go-to but any brand will suffice. Lastly, add as much (or as little) red wine as you’d like, no need to measure and be overly specific here. The red wine adds a really nice, rich flavor to the finished brown gravy. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the meatballs

  • 1 lb of 80% ground beef or a combination of beef and pork
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tbs fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 slices white bread, crusts removed and moistened with water

For the brown gravy

  • 2 cups beef stock, divided
  • 1 tbs cornstarch
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbs ketchup
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • splash of red wine

For the finished dish

  • 1 lb wide egg noodles
  • 6 tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • fresh parsley, for garnish

Instructions

For the meatballs – Preheat oven to 350ºF. Except for the white bread, combine all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix until just combined, do not over mix or the meatballs will be tough. Break off small pieces of the moistened bread and add it to the meatball mixture. Mix into the meat and then continue to add more bread until it’s all combined.

Form the meat into bite-sized meatballs and place them about 1″ apart on a sheet pan lined with a Silpat® or aluminum foil. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Alternatively, the meatballs can also be fried in oil until crispy and golden brown.

For the gravy – Whisk together 1/2 cup beef stock and cornstarch in a small bowl, set aside. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a pan. Add the onions to the skillet and cook until golden brown and translucent, about 3-4 minutes.

Whisk together the remaining 1 1/2 cups beef stock, Worcestershire and ketchup and mix until well combined. Add to the pan along with a splash of red wine. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat and gradually whisk in cornstarch mixture. Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Add more beef stock as needed until desired consistency is reached.

To finish – Add the cooked mini meatballs to the sauce and stir to coat. Keep warm over low heat.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the egg noodles to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss with the softened butter.

Place the buttered noodles on a large serving platter and top with the brown gravy meatballs and sauce. Garnish with parsley, Serve hot.

**TIP – Make the mini meatballs ahead of time and freeze them for later use in this dish. Thaw the cooked meatballs and then add them right to the hot gravy mixture to warm through. Proceed according to recipe instructions.**

Classic Marinara Sauce

Marinara Saucen

I’ve been making homemade sauce for twenty years now and I generally stick to what I know and don’t really follow any recipes however, when I came across this recipe for Classic Marinara Sauce in one of my new cookbooks I had to give it a try. The original recipe is from The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook  by America’s Test Kitchen which is an excellent cookbook if you’re looking for heart healthy cooking ideas plus some new and interesting ways to prepare your vegetables, pastas and meats.

What I really liked about this recipe was the way they had you concentrate down the tomatoes by cooking them until they were brown and sticking to the pan. This step, combined with the red wine, allowed the sauce to develop a really nice, rich, complex flavor that was simply perfect! I used a Merlot in this recipe but feel free to use whatever red wine that you have on hand, any wine is better than no wine! Because the sauce is somewhat thick and chunky adding a little of the pasta water to the finished meal really helped to give it the perfect consistency. It made just the right amount of sauce for one and half pounds of pasta however, if you like a more heavily sauced pasta, I’d stick with a pound. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 (28 oz) cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
  • 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp minced fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp dried
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3 tbs chopped fresh basil
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • pinch of granulated sugar

Instructions

Drain the tomatoes in a fine-mesh strainer that is set over a large bowl. Using hands, open the tomatoes and remove the fibrous core, discard. Let the tomatoes drain for about 5 minutes. Reserve 3/4 cup of the tomatoes separately. Reserve 2 1/2 cups of the drained tomato juice, discard the rest.

Heat 2 tbs of olive oil in a 12″ skillet over medium, heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the remaining drained tomatoes (keep the 3/4 cup of tomatoes set aside) and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring often, until the liquid has been evaporated and the tomatoes begin to brown and stick to the pan, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Stir in the red wine and cook until thick and syrupy, about 1 minute. Stir in the reserved tomato juice, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the reserved uncooked tomatoes to the sauce and transfer to a food processor (or use a handheld immersion blender) and pulse 8-9 times or until slightly chunky. Return the sauce to the skillet and add in the basil, remaining 1 tbs of olive oil, salt, pepper and sugar to taste.

When tossing with the pasta, add some of the pasta cooking water as needed to adjust the consistency of the sauce.

Easy Peasy Ala Vodka Sauce

ala vodka sauce_n

If you’re looking for a quick, easy and delicious pasta meal this will be your next favorite recipe! Whenever I am short on time, not in the mood to make “Sunday Sauce” but want pasta and need something my kids will love, this is my “go-to” dish. I love to add prosciutto to the sauce however, it’s just as yummy if you don’t have any on hand. The key to making this scrumptious is fresh basil, lots of grated cheese, and an extra splash of heavy cream.

I feel this sauce is best over a ridged, sturdy pasta because it allows the sauce to stick really well and get in all of the yummy nooks and crannies of the pasta. I usually do a  nice penne rigate but you can also use rigatoni if you prefer. I’ve also made it will gemelli pasta which was delish as well.

One quick cooking tip, you can make this sauce ahead of time however, I recommend NOT adding the cream until you’re about to serve the pasta. Ala vodka sauce has a tendency to separate if the cream is cooked too long in the sauce so a few minutes before your pasta is done, add the heavy cream and warm the sauce through. This recipe is enough sauce for exactly one pound of pasta. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 6 oz diced prosciutto, optional
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • One can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 – 1 cup grated cheese
  • handful of fresh chopped basil
  • Parsley, for garnish
  • 1 lb pasta

Instructions

Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the onion (and prosciutto if using) and cook until softened, about 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute or two more.

Slowly add in the vodka, allowing the alcohol to burn off for a minute or two. Add in the crushed tomatoes, red pepper flakes, Kosher salt, black pepper and cheese. Stir, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, about 10-12 minutes.

Boil the pasta while the sauce is simmering.

Right before serving, add in the heavy cream and fresh basil and stir gently until well combined. Allow the sauce to heat through, about 2-3 minutes. Toss with the hot pasta and serve. Garnish with parsley.

ala vodka gemelli

Italian Tomato Sauce

Sauce

I am often asked for my recipe for tomato sauce which I always struggle with because when it comes to sauce, I don’t follow a recipe. When I first started making sauce over 20 years ago I asked my mom for her “recipe” and she gave me a bunch of vague measurements and ingredients to throw together and then…..”VOILA!!”………sauce! So I’ll now pass along my list of vague measurements and ingredients to throw together and hopefully you’ll end up with a delicious pot of sauce as well.

Really good, flavorful sauce develops in time so if you can, let it cook for hours on the stovetop. The longer, the better! If you can’t be home all day to babysit it, use your Crock-Pot! I’ll usually brown the sauce and onions first and then add everything to the Crock-Pot to cook. You can put the meat and onions in raw however, I don’t think you get the same depth of flavor as when you brown them first so I recommend not skipping this step. Taste your sauce periodically and adjust your seasonings as it cooks because there is nothing worse than bland tomato sauce. My favorite way to taste the sauce, and I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, is to have a piece of “gravy bread“. Dip a slice of folded white bread in the sauce and enjoy! So yummy!!!…………….and very hard to eat just one slice!!

Try adding some red wine, make it with meat or without, let your meatballs cook in the sauce or don’t. There really is no one way to make sauce and depending on my mood and what’s in the house, my sauce will turn out a little different each time. My favorite way to make it though is with sausage meat and red wine. Cooking the onions and garlic in the sausage fat really adds so much flavor to the finished product as does a good, rich red wine. It’s also a great way to deglaze your pan! Fresh basil is the perfect finishing touch!

Use this “recipe” as a guide and don’t be afraid to substitute ingredients or adjust the amounts to suit your own tastes. Part of being a good cook is learning to become intuitive in the kitchen, following a recipe is great (and I do it often) but learning to cook using what you know about flavors and ingredients is a skill worth developing. Sauce is the perfect thing to practice on because most sins are easily correctable. So tap into your inner Italian and get cooking!!

Ingredients

  • 1 – 1.5 lbs sweet or hot Italian sausage with fennel, casings removed OR 1 – 1.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4-6 garlic gloves, smashed then minced
  • Red wine, about 1/4 – 1/3 of the bottle
  • 2 (28 oz) cans of crushed tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1-2 tbs dried parsley
  • drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
  • handful of fresh basil, cut into thin ribbons

Instructions

In a large pot set over medium heat cook the sausage/ground beef until nicely browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onions to the fat and cook until slightly softened and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Pour in the wine and scrape up any browned meat bits and onion stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Add the meat back into the pot along with the crushed tomatoes, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and parsley. Drizzle a little extra-virgin olive oil over the top. Cover and allow the sauce to simmer for at least 2 hours, longer if possible.

In the last few minutes before serving, toss in a nice handful of fresh basil and stir.

**Tip – I like to freeze cleaned fresh basil leaves in a Ziploc bag so that I always have fresh basil on hand. When you need some for a recipe just grab a frozen handful and crumble it right into your dish**

One Pot Garlic Parmesan Pasta

garlic pasta

This is a fantastic pasta to serve as a side dish or even as a main meal. The nice part is that it’s made in one pot and basically cooks itself. It doesn’t get much easier than that! To serve this as a main meal, simply add in some grilled chicken and steamed broccoli and you have a nice, quick dinner. To save even more time, use a rotisserie chicken instead of grilling your own.

I came across this recipe online at Damn Delicious blog, you can find the original recipe right here . I followed the recipe pretty much “as is” with only a few minor substitutions. Instead of chicken broth I used chicken stock which is more flavorful and rich and I used Pecorino Romano cheese in place of the Parmesan. Since it was the only side dish that I was serving alongside my Chicken Caprese , I doubled the recipe.

This pasta is best when it is served right away so that the sauce is silky and smooth. Once it stands, it tends to clump. If that happens, just return the pasta to the pot over medium low heat and stir in a little extra milk until the sauce loosens back up. Serve hot and enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chicken stock (I like Kitchen Basics brand)
  • 1 cup milk, more as needed
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 8 oz uncooked fettuccine or thin linguine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh parsley leaves

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Stir in chicken broth, milk, butter and fettuccine. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is cooked through, about 18-20 minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese. If the mixture is too thick, add more milk as needed until desired consistency is reached.

Serve immediately, garnish with fresh parsley.

Grandma’s Macaroni Pie

Macaroni Pie 3

Growing up in a big Italian family there were many food traditions that we had throughout the year, macaroni pie being one of them. We typically made this easy, delicious pasta dish at Easter time along with other family favorites such as sweet rice pie and Easter bread. It became a tradition in my family to serve the macaroni pie for dinner the day before Easter after spending the day baking Easter bread. We’d have a nice big slice and relax while watching “The Ten Commandments” on TV. Such great memories!

This dish is made with perciatelli pasta (pronounced pear-chuh-TELL-lee) however, bucatini is also fine as they are both the same cut which is a long, thin, tube like pasta. The key to great macaroni pie is lots of cheese and letting the macaroni soak after cooking so that it plumps up. Be sure to cook the macaroni very al dente as it will both soak and bake. If you overcook it from the start, your macaroni pie will be very mushy. Also, this is a very black pepper heavy dish so if you’re not a huge pepper fan feel free to cut it back to suit your tastes.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb perciatelli or bucatini pasta
  • 10 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 6-8 oz grated cheese (I prefer Pecorino Romano)
  • 1-2 tbs coarse ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a large pot of boiling water, cook the macaroni until very al dente. Once it’s done cooking drain off most of the water leaving just enough to cover the macaroni. Set the pot aside off of the hot burner and let the macaroni cool until it swells and gets soft, about 10-15 minutes.

While the macaroni is cooling, mix together the beaten eggs, grated cheese, salt and pepper.

Drain off the macaroni and give it a quick rinse under cool water, if it’s is too warm when you add the egg and cheese mixture it will cook the eggs. Combine the cooled macaroni with the egg and cheese, mix well.

Spray a 9X13 dish with cooking spray, pour the macaroni in. Lightly mist or brush olive oil all over the top so that the macaroni browns as it bakes. Cook for about an hour or until it’s lightly browned and the center is set. Cool for 10-15 minutes, then slice and serve.

Macaroni Pie 1.jpg

Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

cutlets and macncheese

My kids are obsessed with macaroni and cheese and would pretty much eat it every day if they could. I feel A LOT less guilty about letting them have it when I make it from scratch over serving them the little blue box mix. The great thing about this recipe is that it’s super easy to make and it doesn’t really take any more time than making a prepackaged version. This mac n cheese is very creamy and flavorful and it even reheats well too. Just add a splash of milk to thin it out a little, microwave, and stir!

I like to use extra sharp cheddar cheese since it has a more distinct flavor however, feel free to change out the cheese to others such as American, Swiss, Asiago, etc. You can even use different cheese combinations, American and cheddar is a nice one to try. Make sure when you heat the milk you let it bubble and thicken. You will know the milk is thick enough when it can coat the back of a spoon easily. Rushing this step will result in a very wet, “soupy” mac n cheese which isn’t very appetizing.

Traditional mac n cheese recipes call for an elbow macaroni which is what I used but other pasta shapes also work well. I like gemelli and mezze penne in this recipe as well. If you use elbow macaroni, try the 3 minute versions they make, I use them all of the time and it really speeds up the process of making this dish. As is, this makes plenty of macaroni and cheese for a side dish but the recipe can be easily doubled to serve a crowd of hungry kiddies too!

Ingredients

  • 8 oz elbow macaroni
  • 1/4 c salted butter
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups of milk 
  • 8 oz grated cheese (cheddar, American or a blend)

Instructions

Cook the macaroni while preparing the cheese sauce.

Melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour, salt, and pepper. Slowly add the milk and cook until bubbly and thick, stir frequently as it warms up.

Add in the grated cheese and stir until melted. Add the macaroni to the cheese sauce, stir to coat.  Serve hot.

**TIP** – If the sauce seems to thin, stir in a little sprinkle of Wondra to thicken it up. Also, letting the mac n cheese sit for a few minutes before serving will also help to thicken the sauce.

 

 

Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Grilled Summer Veggies

summerpasta1

Pasta salads are the perfect light, easy, summer meal. They come together quickly, make a nice dinner or side dish, and they are a great way to use up all of the delicious vegetables that are growing in your garden. For this recipe I used a mix of zucchini, red bell peppers, corn on the cob, and green onions but you can substitute any or all of these with whatever favorite vegetables you have on hand. Pasta salads are extremely versatile in that you can add in whatever meat, cheese, dressing, and veggie that you like and it will always turn out delicious.

Because I had a nice amount of basil growing in my yard I decided to make a quick and easy fresh basil pesto . It takes only minutes to pull together and it’s the perfect “sauce” for both the pasta and to season the chicken that I added into the salad. The fresh grilled vegetables are really what amps up this salad to awesome, they impart such a nice, sweet element to the dish. I happen to love fresh mozzarella, preferably from my local Italian deli, but in a pinch I do use pre-packaged “fresh mozzarella” from BJ’s. For this recipe I threw in some of the fresh mozzarella pearls, teeny tiny little balls, from Bel Gioioso. They aren’t as amazing as true fresh mozzarella but in this dish where they are tossed together with pesto, chicken, pasta, and fresh veggies they work just fine.

If you don’t have time to make everything for this dish all at once you easily make much of it in advance. The pesto will keep for 5-7 days in the fridge, the vegetables can be grilled and diced ahead of time as well as the chicken. When you’re ready for dinner just boil the pasta and toss everything together. Super easy!

Ingredients

  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1″ thick slices
  • 2 ears of fresh corn on the cob
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into sixths
  • 4 green onions, trimmed and sliced thin
  • 4 tbs olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh mozzarella pearls (or torn up fresh mozzarella)
  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 1 lb chicken breast, cubed and cooked
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • fresh parsley, for garnish
  • 3/4 cup pesto

Instructions

Heat the grill to medium-high. Toss vegetables in the olive oil with a little bit of salt and pepper. Grill corn, turning periodically, for about 10 minutes or until slightly charred in spots. Grill the pepper and zucchini slices for about 4-6 minutes, turning once. Remove from the grill and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. In a skillet, heat the remaining 2 tbs of olive oil over medium heat. Add in the cubed chicken and season lightly with salt and pepper. Saute until slightly browned and cooked through. Towards the end of the cooking, add in 2-3 tbs of the pesto sauce and stir to combine. Set the chicken aside on a plate and cover to keep warm.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions. Drain and run under cold water to cool off the pasta just a bit, you don’t want it steaming hot.

Combine the cooked pasta, chicken, mozzarella balls, green onion, and grilled veggies. Toss gently with the pesto until well combined. Season with salt and pepper as needed and garnish with fresh parsley. Serve warm, at room temp, or cold.

summerpasta3

 

Make Your Own Fresh Basil Pesto

basilpesto

There is nothing more “summery” than a fresh basil pesto. Just one whiff of a fresh basil leaf immediately brings to mind long, warm, summer days and evening meals out in the yard. Pesto is the perfect summer dinner accompaniment because it is so versatile. Its light, flavorful taste is great mixed with pasta, cold or hot, and it’s even delicious spread on a slice of toasted Italian bread or used as a sandwich topping. You can also add a dollop to soups, use as a marinade for chicken, or even mix it into a homemade salad dressing. There are literally countless ways to use fresh basil pesto in your cooking.

When summer is in full swing and your basil plants are running rampant making a basil pesto is the perfect way to use up some of those beautiful basil leaves. Make a big batch of pesto and store it either in the fridge or in the freezer so you’ll always have some on hand and ready to go. Homemade pesto will keep in the fridge for about 5-7 days and in the freezer for up to 9 months. When freezing pesto in an airtight container, be sure to pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top before sealing. Doing this will help to prevent browning as it freezes and keep the pesto looking green and fresh when thawed .

Another little tip for keeping your pesto bright and green is to blanch the leaves before making the pesto. To blanch, simply dip the leaves into boiling water for a second or two and then submerge them into ice cold water. This will “set” the color and keep your pesto nice and vibrant even after running it through the food processor.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves, cleaned and stems snipped
  • 2/3 cup of toasted pine nuts
  • 2/3 grated Pecorino Romano cheese or Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Instructions

In a food processor combine all of the ingredients and process until smooth. Scrape down the bowl as needed.