Sometimes the simplest dinners are the ones that shine and surprise.
This dinner was not inspired or born of a late-night epiphany. Instead, its origins were pedestrian and utilitarian. It was a question of practicality over originality. There was no high math.
It was Saturday morning and I was taking inventory in the refrigerator. I was checking expiration dates, volume levels, and the state of the fruit and vegetable drawers. Milk was running low and the sour cream was running bad. There was plenty of fruit, but not enough vegetables. The cheese still looked strong, but the herbs were getting soft. The rosemary and thyme were starting to die, and there was nearly an entire box of basil that looked a few days away from losing its luster.
So I decided to buy more basil, to double-down. It was a bet that paid off.
The pesto was absolutely delicious. It came together in minutes, even with the blanching, and then melded seamlessly with the spaghetti in seconds, to create a wonderful dinner. I kept the meal simple so that I could really taste the pesto on the spaghetti, even though I had only given the spaghetti a very light coat of the sauce.
It was one of those understated meals that delivered on every bite. There was also the satisfaction of success – of having made something simple but wonderful in a first attempt. It deserved a toast, but I was keeping things simple tonight.
Author’s Note: Blanching the basil leaves is not completely necessity, but it does have two advantages. First, it will make the basil slightly easier and quicker to chop once in the food processor. Second, and more importantly, it will help your pesto shine. Blanching the leaves gives them a great green color, and will keep your pesto vibrant, even as it gets mixed and tossed about.
SPAGHETTI WITH HOMEMADE PESTO
PREP TIME: 10 minutes COOK TIME: 20 minutes YIELD: Serves 4 WHAT TO GRAB: 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts 350 for 5 min 2 large containers of basil (1/2 cup when blanched) 3 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan with additional for serving 1 teaspoon Kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1 pound Spaghetti 1 tablespoons butter
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. Toast the pine nuts at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. (for the spaghetti) and bring a small pot of water to a boil (for the basil).
2. Working in groups blanch the basil leaves for 10 seconds and then remove to a cold-water bath. Strain the basil and then hand-wring the water out of the basil.
3. In a food processor, combine the pine nuts, basil, olive oil, parmesan, salt and pepper. Process until the basil leaves have been coarsely chopped. Scrape the sides as needed, and process again.
4. Cook the spaghetti according to the box’s instructions. Strain the pasta. In the pot, combine the warm pasta with the butter and about half of the prepared pesto, until all of the spaghetti is coated. If you need a little more pesto, by all means, add a little more. You should have some pesto leftover, which is the perfect way to spice up a work-week sandwich.
5. Serve warm with freshly grated parmesan!