Tagliatelle al Pesto

It’s almost summer, which means basil is in bloom. And I get pretty excited about basil. So excited in fact, that on the first day it was warm in Dallas (in February) I went to buy a basil plant. Unfortunately, my local nursery wasn’t on board with my plans and there was only one little sprig of basil available (Picture Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree). Given my history of killing most everything I plant, I wasn’t very optimistic about this endeavor. However, to my surprise I have not only kept the basil alive but it is now HUGE! There is something so satisfying about not having to buy herbs at the grocery store, only to have them go bad in your refrigerator. And it’s even better when there is enough of said herb to make a big batch of fresh pesto.

This is my favorite pasta dish to use pesto in. It is another recipe from my cooking class in Florence. Now I know some of you are going to look at the ingredients and think, “Hmm, pasta and potatoes? That seems like a lot of carbs…” Here’s my advice for you: don’t question it. Embrace the starch. It’s amazing. Plus it’s a traditional Genoese dish. And there are green beans too! Anything green is healthy, and guess what else is green? Pesto. You’re welcome. I can rationalize anything.

Tagliatelle al Pesto, serves 6

  • 3 cups basil leaves
  • 3 heaped tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 small Yukon gold potatoes, sliced not more than 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 lb green beans
  • 1 lb tagliatelle

Put the pine nuts, salt, garlic and 1/3 of the olive in a food processor. Process until the sauce is a slightly grainy paste. Add half of the basil and pulse while pouring another 1/3 of olive oil in. Repeat with the remaining basil and olive oil. Basil bruises easily, so the less time in the processor the better. Transfer the pesto to a bowl and fold in the grated Parmesan.  Meanwhile bring a big pot of salted water to a boil (hooray for one pot meals!) Drop in the potato slices and boil for 5 minutes. Then put the pasta in and bring the water back up to a boil. Tagliatelle only takes 5-6 minutes to cook, so if you substitute a different pasta that takes longer you may want to add the potatoes second. During the last 2 minutes of cooking, add the green beans. You want them to be bright and crisp, so don’t overcook them. Before straining the pasta, take a few tablespoons of pasta water and add it to a big bowl with the pesto. Transfer the drained pasta to the bowl and mix in the pesto. Top with extra cheese and serve immediately.

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