Some Green Amid The Gray
Sunday, March 13, 2016
Long after the allure of simmered stews, mashed root vegetables, and gratins has worn thin, there are still weeks (months?) to go before the farmers’ markets open. In the meantime, much of the greens we eat are either hydroponic bibb lettuce or microgreens. This is not a complaint about either; I just want a bit more variety. For the past few weeks we’ve been enjoying arugula from the Honey Brook Harvest Collective, which we get through Philly Foodworks. Not content with just another green for salads, I decided to make it into pesto. After all, is there any better reminder of summer?
The following is based on a recipe found in Pasta, a cookbook I strongly recommend if you are interested in refining your pasta dishes. The recipes are sequenced in order of difficulty, and in every recipe it stresses the importance of balance and the marriage of shape to pasta sauce (something I am only now learning to appreciate). Originally, the recipe called for both walnuts and pine nuts, but in keeping this as local as possible, I used only walnuts. Further, I used Valley Shepherd Creamery’s Hunterdon for the cheese. Last, I used Vesper Brothers Whole Wheat Penne.
Arugula Pesto and Whole Wheat Pasta
3 oz. walnuts
2 bunches (approximately 4 oz.) arugula, washed and dried
1 small garlic clove
2/3 cup olive oil
2 oz. grated Valley Shepherd Hunterdon
1 lb. whole wheat penne
6-8 sun-dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips
Scatter the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast them in a 300 degree oven for ten minutes. After the walnuts have cooled, place them and the garlic, arugula, and olive oil in a food processor and process until smooth and pour into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the cheese until well combined and allow to sit for at least 1 hour.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the pesto and stir to combine, use some of the pasta to thin the pesto if necessary to evenly coat the pasta. Top with the sun-dried tomatoes.
A Note About The Olive Oil: I find the amount of olive oil in a pesto to be extremely subjective, and it really is a matter of preference. To be honest, I don’t really measure it out. I simply add it to the food processor until I have just the creamy consistency I want and then I immediately stop. A pesto that leaves some oil pooled at the bottom of the pasta dish is, to me, too oily.