Thursday, August 14, 2008
Spicy Fettuccine with Pesto
Basil has been an intoxicating spice for me of late, one that I have been craving for most of my dishes. When chopped or cooked, it gives me the same feeling I get when I walk by freshly cut grass, where the smell literally assaults all five senses. It is a tangible smell of freshness.
This craving recently led me to search through three cookbooks and two food sites until I found what I was looking for: a fettuccine with pesto recipe. According to cooking guru David Lebovitz, a proper pesto is made with a mortar and pestle. Taking his advice, I eagerly ran to Williams and Sonoma in order to buy one. Seeing it on the bottom shelf, I thought the white marble mortar was smooth and beautiful--perfect for crushing aromatic basil leaves for fresh pesto.
I then saw the price tag--and went home to pull out my food processor.
My first experience making pesto was everything it should be--fun, and I completely trashed the kitchen. After ensuring that all parts of the food processor were put together correctly (a chore in itself), I tossed in the garlic and basil for the first stage of pesto making. Upon opening the lid, I was struck by the potence of the smell--a fresh burst that made me cough at first, but swell with pride as I added salt and pepper, olive oil, fat free feta cheese, toasted pine nuts and two green chiles to the paste. After tasting it, I considered it far too spicy for my palate, but after a few dips and a thumbs up from a Nigerian friend, I felt that the extra chile was worth the risk.
Adding the pesto to a waiting pot of fettuccine and peas, the pasta was light with just the right spicy kick--and the feta (and additional parmesan cheese) melted to add a sticky zest to the dish.
No, I didn't create my pesto in the authentic grinding method. But I was more than happy with the results of breaking tradition.
Spicy Fettuccine with Pesto
(adapted from Working Mother)
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, plus extra for garnish
2 large green chiles, seeded (only use 1 1/2 if you're not a fan of spicy foods)
1 small clove garlic
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1/3 cup exra-virgin olive oil
3 1/2 ounces feta or goat cheese, coarsely crumbled
freshly ground pepper
8 ounces fresh or frozen peas, thawed
14 ounces fettuccine
freshly grated parmesan (optional)
1. Place basil, chiles, garlic and a large pinch of salt in a food processor; process until coarsely chopped.
2. Toast nuts in a small dry pan over low heat, shaking occasionally until golden on both sides, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to basil mixture in food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Add half of the oil and process until almost smooth; transfer to a bowl. Add remaining oil and the feta and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Bring a small saucepan of water and a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add peas to small saucepan and simmer 5 minutes if fresh, 3 minutes if thawed; drain. Add pasta to large pot and cook according to package directions; drain and return to pot. Immediately add 2-3 dollops of pesto and the peas to pasta and toss until pasta is well-coated (I added the entire mixture to make sure the pasta was well-coated). Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.