Basil is the easiest thing in the world to grow, you can even buy a small plant in the grocery store, just needs sun and water. If it starts to bolt (get little flowers on the top) just pinch them off. I like to sprinkle the pinches in the garden in hopes a volunteer will spring up, but so far, hasn’t happened. But whether you grow your own basil or buy it in the produce section, pesto is the perfect summer dinner over pasta, with a salad and warm baguette.
Mix together in a blender or Cuisinart:
• 2 cups of clean basil leaves
• 1/3 cup olive oil
• 3 to 4 peeled* and chopped (!)** cloves of garlic, depending on their size and how garlicky you like it
• 1/3 cup lightly toasted pignoli (pine) nuts***
Blend only as long as necessary. Do not heat.
Cook about half a pound of pasta for two people—read directions on the box and test it at about a minute before they say is enough time. IMHO De Cecco is the best grocery store pasta. I prefer spaghettini, not too thin, not too thick. Cappelini is too thin for this sauce, and spaghetti and linguini are too carby for my taste. Do not rinse the pasta after it cooks, no matter what any well-meaning person tells you.
Drain the pasta and put it on plates. Spoon about a tablespoon of pesto sauce on top (a little goes a long way), sprinkle with parmesan cheese**** and perhaps red pepper flakes (especially for your dad), et voila!
Serve on the porch!
* The best garlic peeler I’ve found is a soft rubber tube. You insert the clove and roll it on the counter, then shake it out et voila, the skin comes off.
** Chopped is important because a blender won’t chop it fine enough and you could end up with big gag-me chunks of garlic in your pasta.
*** Pignoli nuts can be toasted in the toaster oven very briefly, watch closely cause they burn quickly. If you can’t find them at a market near you, you can substitute walnuts or experiment with other nuts. You can also make pesto without nuts, but that added flavor and texture is yummy.
**** Reggiano is the best parmesan cheese, pricier but worth it.