If not now, when?

One American woman. Twenty acres and a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany. Random introspection and hilarity, depending on the day.

12 May 2006

Ricette! (Recipes!)

Okay, on my chef-friend FieldSalad's urging ... I'm trying to post more actual recipes. This one was inspired by AndBabyMakesThree, in DC (for now!), telling me that she was making sage walnut pesto for dinner a few nights ago. I thought -- heck, I can make that. I have a few sage plants - freshly shooting - that the winter didn't kill off, let me give it a shot! Adapted from a recipe I already had, it was stunningly delicious.

Traditional pesto is made with fresh basil and pine nuts. This version is with sage and walnuts, a richer/sweeter taste, and more 'wintery'. Here ya go ...

Ode to Beckmans: Sage Walnut Pesto
1 handful (about 1 1/2 cups?) of tender fresh sage (destemmed)
2 cloves of garlic (I LOVE garlic. you may want to go a little easier)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
pinch of salt (snooty salt girl that I am, I prefer either fleur de sel or sicilian sea salt - something with a little body, but not chunky.)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I usually go heavier).
1/2 cup minced walnuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (**important - use GOOD, extra virgin olive oil.)

Chop up the sage leaves (tiny pieces!) by hand - if you use a food processor, it gets all lumpy and gooey. You can chop the walnuts mechanically, but I personally think it's easier just to keep going with the sharp knife rather than having something else to clean. Important to get tiny pieces, though.)

Finely mince the garlic and put everything together in a good mixing bowl. Mix well with a fork, adding salt and cheese to taste. This will be pasty and thick. I myself like a half-lemon squeezed in here, it eases the sage a little, but this is a personal thing.

The secret to most sauces, Renaissance Artist tells me, is adding a little bit (half ladleful or so) of the pasta water from cooking, which this recipe needs anyhow to thin the paste a little.

Italians select pasta shapes for a purpose: how it has to 'hold' the sauce you've made. Pesto is a relatively even sauce, so you don't need something with nooks and crannies or curves. A flat fettucine will work, but I have always liked farfalle (which is the italian word for butterfly, better known in the US as "bow tie" pasta.) Add drained pasta of your choice (still hot) and toss.

This recipe serves 4 medium (starter) servings of pasta, not terribly heavily 'pestoed'. Most Italian pastas come lighter-sauced than we would expect in the states. If you are serving four but prefer a more heavy sauce plus some on the plate to sop up with bread, I would double this recipe.

EDITORIAL ADDITION: I forgot to mention that Italians usually serve pasta as a "starter" (primo) before a main course. If you intend to eat this as a main course,
this recipe only serves two. If this is all you're eating and you want a little protein, I would add "Italian style" large link sausage, estimating 1 1/2 links per person (break into free-style chunks of sausage that you cook to brown with a little oil in advance, then add the pesto to sausage. Heat together for a moment, then add hot pasta to entire mix.) The sage/sausage mix is divine.

Before serving, grate another splash of parmesan on the top, garnish with a whole leaf of sage if you're feeling gourmet.



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