Its pesto time! Had a couple of basil leaves left from the time I made Pizza at home, so pesto was the way to go. Generally pesto is made with pine nuts, but I did not have any on hand and it is difficult to find them in the place that I stay. Many people use walnuts as a substitute but I feel roasted blanched almonds are a better substitute.
Traditionally, pesto is made in a mortar and pestle. Some Italians swear that the key to a good pesto is chopping the ingredients by hand rather than in a food processor. But, well, chopping by hand takes time and I wanted a quick recipe. I will definitely try chopping by hand the next time I have time on my hand and let you know the difference. But, for now I am happy with my food processor made pesto!
BASIL & ALMOND PESTO
1/3 cup almonds
1/2 cup olive oil, plus 2 tbsp for roasting almonds
1/2 cup Parmigiano Regiano
3 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp butter, softened
Salt and pepper, to taste (the cheese is salty so do taste before adding the salt)
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
Blanching the almonds:
Boil enough water to submerge the almonds. Once the water starts boiling, add the almonds. Leave in for a minute. Drain water. Let almonds cool. Once warm to touch, remove skins.
Toasting the almonds:
In a skillet, add about 2 tbsp olive oil. Add the almonds and roast till light brown. Keep an eye on the almonds as they have a tendency of going from light brown to burnt very quickly.
Making the pesto:
In a food processor, grind the roasted almonds. Add the garlic cloves and grind. Add basil leaves and grind a little. With the food processor on, slowly pour the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the mixture into a bowl and add cheese. Mix it well. Beat in the butter till mixture is smooth. Set aside. You can keep the pesto covered in the fridge for a week.
You can serve the pesto with either fettuccine or penne pasta. Cook pasta according to instructions on the box. While your pasta is cooking, add two tablespoon of the cooking water to a bowl large enough to hold the pasta. Stir in the pesto and the butter and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. When the pasta is cooked, drain very briefly (don’t allow to dry) and add to the bowl with the pesto, toss to coat evenly.