Sunday, October 24, 2010

Penne with Tomato Pesto

I've penned a few pesto posts in the past. The main mantra for making pesto is nut + green or other vegetable + oil = delicious sauce. But I still keep finding surprising combinations for pesto, including corn pesto and Thai (cilantro-peanut). To add to the growing list of pestovations (pesto innovations) is this recipe from Cook's Illustrated.

Pesto alla Trapanese
Makes 4 servings. Adapted from Cook's Illustrated.

1/4 cup slivered almonds
12 oz cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
1 pound penne
1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated

Toast almonds in a small, dry skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, 2-4 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Place almonds, tomatoes, basil, garlic, and 1 tsp salt in a food processor and puree until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl and, with the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil. Run for about 30 seconds to thoroughly mix the sauce.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking liquid and drain pasta. Transfer pasta back to pot. Add pesto and Parmesan cheese to pasta. Toss and add pasta water until sauce acquires the desired consistency. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan on the side.

Pesto alla Trapanese

When preparing this dish, I did have my doubts. I thought I didn't have enough sauce or that it would be too plain. But I was quite surprised. This tomato pesto had an amazing flavor. It was so bright and a bit acidic that it went really well with the penne. Normally a bowl of pasta with sauce does not sound like much of a meal, but this pasta was the exception to the rule. There's something about the simplicity of the meal that makes it even more satisfying. Leave it to Cook's Illustrated to find a new twist on pesto.

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