Monday, February 28, 2011

A Different Green for St. Patty's Day

Wait! That's not a shamrock!
St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner - just about time to start thinking about the traditional corned beef and cabbage, green beer, and cupcakes with mysterious green frosting.

But what if you don't like corned beef?

Instead of traditional food, why not just serve the traditional color? I'm not talking about a bowl of lettuce, but how about a bowl of pasta? Instead of the traditional red sauce, serve your pasta with pesto instead.

Pesto is traditionally made with basil and pine nuts, but lately pesto had evolved into all sorts of variations, including arugula pesto and spinach pesto and pesto with almonds or pistachios instead of pine nuts. The thing about pesto is that it's easy to make, and once you know the basics you can adapt and modify and change things to your heart's desire.

This basic pesto recipe is adapted from Great Meals for Busy Days by Nathalie Dupree and it notes that the pesto stores well for several weeks. That's a good thing to know when basil it at its peak and you're chopping it down in the garden as fast as you can. This time of year, it's a little pricey at the grocery store, but a little bit goes a long way. I've cut this recipe down to "winter" size, assuming you don't have basil plants flourishing on your windowsill, but this is still plenty to coat your pasta.

Pesto Sauce

Pasta with pesto
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon pine nuts (optional)

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until pureed.

To serve on pasta, simply toss the pesto into with the hot pasta right before serving. If you like a little "kick" add some red pepper flakes as well. Serve with additional grated cheese if desired.

Pesto is also great on vegetables or on cold pasta salads or as an addition to salad dressings.

1 comment:

Cedarglen said...

Heavens. I DO like corned beef and I'm going to make the traditional 'boiled meal' though with a slow braise. You offer a wonderful alternative and I like pasta (a bit too much?) but pesto has never been a dear friend. I'll skip the green stuff, save a special apron. Two or three beers per year is my quota and I've never quite understood the dying part. Making a good meal does not have to include the goofy stuff. Maybe I'm too old.

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