Spaghetti With Grated Summer Squash and Classic Fresh Pesto Sauce

pasta final

I’ve had a printout of a recipe for Classic Fresh Pesto Sauce on my kitchen counter for over a week now. Every morning when I come in from the garden I think to myself, I should have cut basil so I could make pesto but, then I think about the weather forecast and how hot it will be and fixing pasta which was the whole reason I was going to make the pesto, doesn’t sound like a great idea anymore.

But finally, the weather has cooled down and we’re enjoying temps in the 50s overnight and into the mid 80s during the day. Beautiful weather. Weather that makes me feel like cooking pasta. So this morning I gathered pesto ingredients; fresh basil, parsley and oregano and took them to the kitchen along with some summer squash and cherry tomatoes that were ready to pick. Today I would make pasta with the Classic Fresh Pesto Sauce for lunch.

pasta, squash & pestoWith no real recipe in mind but the pesto sauce I decided that I would cook up some brown rice spaghetti and toss it with uncooked, shredded summer squash and the pesto. The final touches would be halved cherry tomatoes from my garden, shredded parmesan cheese and ground pepper.

I have to say I think the squash idea turned out great. If you didn’t see me put it in the dish you wouldn’t even know it was in there. The taste of the raw squash is very mild, so when you add the pesto and toss the mixture the squash just blends in.

roasted garlicThe pesto sauce recipe I used is from Renee’s Garden Blog, June-2013 and it’s one that will become a standard for me. I did change one thing from the original recipe, instead of adding fresh garlic as noted in the recipe, I added a whole head of roasted garlic. Roasted garlic is one of the staples I try to keep in the refrigerator. Its is easy to make, has a more mellow taste than the raw. To make roasted garlic you start with whole fresh heads. Cut the tops off of each head and place in foil, pour olive oil over the heads just so it seeps down amongst the cloves, you won’t need a lot, maybe a tablespoon or less per head depending on head size. Seal the packet tightly then roast in a 350° oven for about an hour or until the garlic is soft to the touch. Let the packet cool, then refrigerate. It’s that simple. To use just squeeze the cloves from the head if you’re using the whole thing.  If you want to extract just a few cloves, I find a fork or the tip of a knife works well for scooping them out.  If you’ve never tried roasted garlic in pesto or other sauces give it a try you just might find that you like it as much as I do.

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Pasta L’Estate (Summer Pasta)

Normally I don’t eat a lot of pasta during the summer months. It can be too filling and many days it’s just too hot to cook. But, there is one summer pasta I do fix, Pasta L’Estate, or summer pasta. It’s very much like something I tried at a restaurant once. Ever since then I have been trying to recreate it and have tried on my own and through various recipes. The closest thing I have found is a recipe from The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, although you will see I’ve even modified it a little. It’s a wonderful dish for those hot summer evenings.

A quick trip to my garden brought a harvest of Sweet 100’s and lush basil. It was time to fix summer pasta. The recipe description says “We invented this pasta to preserve our favorite pesto flavors without having to put everything in the processor. A happy result with lots of texture and pizzazz.” I would agree. The only thing to keep in mind is that it takes at least 3 hrs or so to mingle the flavors in the sauce. Allowing less time will greatly compromise the flavor and that’s what sauce is all about, the flavor.

L’Estate

Serves 4

2 cups fresh basil leaves cut into ¼ inch strips

5 oz Parmesan cheese, cut into tiny squares

¾ cup pine nuts (pignoli), lightly toasted*

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup best quality olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1-pound linguine (I prefer spaghetti or buccatini)

Cherry tomato halves or tomato wedges

Combine the basil, Parmesan, pine nuts, and garlic in a medium-sized bowl. Pour the olive oil over all. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 3 hours.

Cook the linguine in boiling salted water until tender but still firm. Drain and toss immediately with the sauce. Place on a large serving platter and arrange the tomatoes around the edge. (I toss the tomatoes with the sauce. I have also marinated, cherry or chopped, tomatoes in the sauce and liked the outcome.)

*Toast pine nuts in a skillet over very low heat, shaking the pan frequently, until evenly golden, about 2 minutes.

Pick up some fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic and maybe even some pine nuts at your farmers’ market this weekend. Some markets may even have cheese and fresh pasta for sale.