Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pesto & Pesto Ricotta

Pesto is something that everyone should make and eat. I was not exposed to it until I went to College, and then I was unimpressed by underseasoned salads utilizing old pesto... and then I went and worked for Bianca for a summer, and made more fresh delicious pesto than you can shake a stick at. It's been love ever since.
All you need to make yourself a pretty good supply of pesto is a single plant. Trim it back a few times, encourage it to grow into a bush, and you have all the pesto two people can eat all summer, with a little left over to freeze for winter... though the frozen is never quite as good as fresh.

2 cups basil leaves, well packed, stems removed
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (approximately)
2 Tbsp fresh grated parmesan
2 Tbsp pine nuts
2 tsp garlic
1/8 tsp each salt and black pepper

In it's simplest incarnation, simply process everything together in a food processor until smooth, scraping down the sides once or twice if necessary. I, however, prefer a slightly 'chunky' pesto, so I leave out a Tbsp each of the parmesan and pine nuts, chop them with a knife, and stir them in later. If you prefer a thin, oily pesto (good for dipping bread in), just add more olive oil. Adding more olive oil is usually necessary if you are trying to use a blender instead of a food processor.
I have actually made pesto without having access to a blender or food processor of any kind. It involved a lot of very very fine dicing with a sharp chef's knife. It turned out decent, but was better for dipping bread than for seasoning pasta... but it can be done!

To use Pesto, you can toss it with warm pasta, spread it on a pizza instead of tomato sauce, toss it with fresh boiled baby potatoes, spread it on crackers, put it on sandwiches (pesto-chicken-mozzarella anyone?), and my favorite: make pesto ricotta.
Pesto and Ricotta, about to become One
Pesto Ricotta
some pesto
about twice to three times as much ricotta

mix together well.
Pesto Ricotta
Pesto Ricotta on a Lasagna

I decided to make pesto ricotta the first time a few summers back when I suddenly realized I didn't have enough pesto to go with the pasta dinner I was making. It turned out better than I could have hoped, and has become a staple when I am making pasta dishes. I like it best when you can get a mouthful of warm tomato sauce and noodles with a little cold, creamy pesto ricotta in with it. The contrast is key.
I also like pesto ricotta on pizza. I usually dot a pizza with generous tablespoonfuls, then top and bake as I normally would.

Anyway, with summer approaching I think this is a timely reminder.
Plant your Basil! Make your Pesto! Eat Delicious Food!

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