Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pasta with Tomato, Pine Nut, and Arugula Pesto

With a glorious bag of arugula greeting me each time I opened the refrigerator, I wanted to do something different with this spicy green -- something worthy of blogging. The easiest thing to do, sometimes, is to just rinse it off and add a handful to a green salad. But, arugula can be used to provide a subtle spice to dishes other than salad.

In their August 2009 issue, Cook's Illustrated included a feature on pestos. The magazine included a brief essay on how pesto is frequently understood in the States to consist solely of  basil, pine nuts and Parmesan -- the common variant of pesto in Genoa in the North. But Southern Sicily tends to a red pesto made of tomatoes and companion ingredients.

The pesto I prepared combined pine nuts, grape tomatoes, garlic and arugula. Begin by toasting 1/4 c pine nuts over low heat. Then, let cool to room temperature.

Combine pine nuts with 12 oz cherry or grape tomatoes, 3/4 c arugula, and 1 garlic clove in a food processor. To brighten the flavors, add 1 1/4 tsp lemon zest and 1 tsp lemon juice.

The test kitchen at Cook's Illustrated includes two surprise ingredients into their recommended version of this pesto -- it makes it non-traditional, but also makes it a bit more memorable. Your surprise ingredients in this pesto are red pepper flakes (just a pinch) and, surprisingly, pepperoncini. Just one pickled pepper made a large difference to this large batch of red pesto. Add these to the food processor and whirl for one minute, making very smooth.

With the machine running, drizzle in 1/3 c olive oil and then add to your warm pasta. Add some cooking water, if necessary, to reach your desired consistency. Top with shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve warm or cold.

As with many cold pasta pesto dishes, keep your basic rules of food safety in mind: remember that this sauce has not been cooked, and therefore can only keep as long as you would keep the ingredients individually in the fridge.This sauce is raw, and should be treated as such. What a shame - you'll have to eat this dish quickly!

Farm box ingredients used: arugula and garlic

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