Last summer, we had so much basil we didn’t know what to do with it. We literally couldn’t eat the stuff fast enough.
This summer, it’s been slim pickin’s.
Last summer, we made fresh pesto all the time, including a massive batch to freeze at the end, which made for some perfect weeknight meals all winter long. This summer, we didn’t make it once.
Since fall is here and the basil is on its way out, we decided to rape and pilage the plant yesterday and have ourselves one good dinner of our favorite pesto meal: linguine with pesto, potatoes and green beans.
When I tell people about this meal, they’re always surprised at the idea of putting potatoes in a pasta dish. But it wasn’t one of my dumb ideas; it’s actually a classic Italian dish. Open any Italian cookbook and you’re almost certain to find it.
The recipes all vary a little bit. Some use pine nuts, some use walnuts; some use parmesan cheese, some include some pecorino. And proportions are always different. But none of this matters. They’re all freaking awesome.
This dish happens to be one of my very favorite recipes for marathon training, because it has a lot of carbohydrates, and if you want (I don’t) you can boost the protein content by using Barilla Plus pasta. It’s actually the meal Erin and I chose to eat last year for dinner the night before we ran the Baltimore Marathon, even before we were vegetarians.
If you’ve never made fresh pesto and you’ve only had it in restaurants or from a jar, you really owe it to yourself to try it. I was never much of a pesto fan until I made it myself (with gnocchi, I think). The fresh, bright flavors in homemade pesto make it a completely different experience from what you get elsewhere. Do it soon, before the basil has to be shipped in from far away!
Here’s the recipe we used last night. We made it in a processor, since that approach takes about two minutes. I’m sure mortar and pestle would be good, just not on a Wednesday. And again, feel free to adjust the quantities a bit; it’s really not a science.
For a different kind of pesto, check out the arugula-walnut version.
Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes and Green Beans
Ingredients (for the pesto):
- 2 cups fresh basil
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1/2 cup good-quality olive oil (I wouldn’t sub canola oil in this one)
- 1/4 cup walnuts or pine nuts, optionally toasted
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (please, not the green can!)
- 1 Tbsp milk or cream (I actually used almond milk)
To make the pesto: Combine basil, nuts, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Pulse until it’s a coarse paste. With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil and let it process until the mixture is relatively smooth. Add grated cheese and process once more to incorporate. Adjust taste with salt. Before adding to the pasta, stir in the cream or milk to loosen it a bit.
Ingredients (for the pasta):
- 1 lb whole wheat pasta
- 4 or 5 medium-small boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into one-inch lengths
- 1 pesto recipe, above
Place the potatoes in a large pot (you’ll be using it for the pasta, too) and fill with as much water as you’d use to make pasta. The potatoes should be covered with a few inches of water. Generously salt the water, then bring to a boil. When the potatoes are close to being tender (usually takes around 8-10 minutes), add the green beans and allow them to cook. When the green beans and potatoes are tender, remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer to a separate bowl. Cover with foil to keep warm. Put the pasta in the boiling water and cook until al dente.
Place the pasta, potatoes, and green beans in a large bowl. Mix in the pesto to coat everything. Serve with more parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to taste.