Summer is finally here! Days at the beach, hot weather and a garden that is beginning to give us the fruits of its labor.
I don’t have enough space to plant much of a “garden” at our home in the Hamptons….herbs are just about all I can do (besides, we have such amazing organic farmers in the area how can I compete?) When we were here in May I planted some basil in pots because the tomatoes that come from the local growers are unbelivable and you can buy fresh mozzerella in just about any store you drive by. When we arrived here last week, the end of June, my basil was going to seed and was looking a little limp and leggy. Howie was determined to clean up the garden and pulled my basil plants out of their pots and put it in the trash bucket! I went into the kitchen and got a bowl and sat there and pulled all the limp leaves off to see if I could save them for a batch of delicious pesto. I washed the leaves and wrapped them in paper towels and put them in the refrigerator overnight. Today when I checked on them, they were plump and ready to become pesto for our dinner.
The last time we were in Italy I remember the amazing pasta dishes that we had and the ones that stand out in my mind the most are those that were made with pesto. It is such a simple sauce. The real secret is not only the fresh basil, but the right combination of garlic and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sometimes when you purchase pesto in the grocery store, it can be very oily and doesn’t really have a very fresh taste. Pesto is so easy to make, even if you don’t grow your own basil, why compromise if you want the real deal and you can buy the fresh basil in your grocery store?
My pesto sauce takes about 10 minutes to make. Most of what you need is in your pantry or refrigerator. The key, I believe, to a good pesto is that you need a good olive oil, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, not a ground version, and don’t go too heavy on the garlic. Using the shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano gives the pesto a more prominent flavor in the end product and, therefore, doesn’t require anymore to be added to the dish. In my dinner tonight, I added grilled shrimp to make it a complete meal – just toss the shrimp with some olive oil, salt, pepper and a dash of cayenne pepper and put them on the grill for a few minutes until they are golden and delicious. I served my pesto with linguine and the grilled shrimp with a simple side of sliced fresh heirloom tomatoes and farm stand onions dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Bellissimo!
Pesto with Grilled Shrimp and Linguine
3 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
4 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts, toasted
2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the basil, salt, and pepper and process for a few seconds until the basil is chopped. Add the cheese, pine nuts, and garlic and, while the processor is running, add the oil in a thin, steady stream until a mostly smooth sauce is formed. Transfer pesto to a bowl and set aside. (Note: Pesto may be made 1 day in advance and kept, refrigerated, in an airtight container, until ready to use. If making in advance, be sure to cover the top of the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent the pesto from darkening. Pesto may also be frozen in the same manner in small quantities for use at a later date.) Grill 1 lb. of large shrimp tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and a dash of cayenne pepper and set aside.
Boil 4 servings of linguine (either fresh or dried) according to the package instructions. Drain and add 4 to 5 heaping tablespoons of pesto sauce and toss to combine. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve in pasta bowls and add grilled shrimp and enjoy!