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Pasta with Basil Pesto and Zucchini

 Is the basil in your garden reaching its peak, but the tomatoes nowhere near being ripe?
Just when you’d like the basil to cozy up to those tomatoes in a salad bowl, these crops never mature at the same time.
If
you prune your basil now however, it will re-sprout a second crop in
time to use with those tomatoes that will ripen in a few weeks.
Don’t cut off all the basil leaves however – just trim back to a
juncture above a pair of leaves.
If
you don’t prune your basil (or at least pinch the tips when they start
to flower), the basil will go to seed and you’ll lose the opportunity
for that second crop.
But what to do with the armful of basil you pick now when they’re aren’t fresh tomatoes for a salad?
That’s easy. Make pesto!
I’ve written posts on pesto before, including pesto with shrimp (click here), and a basic pesto primer (click here) that shows you how to make a real pesto alla Genovese, and how to keep your pesto a bright green color.
Since
I recently had some zucchini from the farmer’s market looking for a
home, I combined it with the pesto and served it over fusilli pasta.
If
you’re a traditionalist (or a glutton for punishment), try making pesto
with a mortar and pestle – the way I had it the first time I ate it in Italy at the home of one of
my cousins.

Not up for so much elbow grease? No problem. It’s a snap to make in a food processor.

You can whir everything together, then start the pasta cooking while you sauté the zucchini.
In the time it takes to boil the pasta, dinner can be on the table.
Buon Appetito!
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Pesto with Zucchini
(enough for one pound of pasta)
2 medium zucchini, sliced into rounds about 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil
These amounts aren’t exact. A lot depends on how firmly you pack the basil
into the measuring cup, how large the garlic cloves are, and of course,
your taste buds.
4 cups basil, loosely packed
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 cut pistachios (or pine nuts)
extra virgin olive oil (as much as two cups, as needed to obtain a loose pesto)
1/4 cup – 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1
pound pasta – trofie, linguini or trenette are common in Italy with
this sauce, but farfalle (bowties) or fusilli (pictured above) are nice
too.
Sauté the zucchini rounds in the olive oil, adding salt and pepper to season. Cook until softened, but not mushy.
Start the water boiling for the pasta while you prepare the pesto sauce.
If using a food processor: Tear leaves from stem, wash, dry and
place in a food processor, along with the garlic, nuts and a small
amount of the olive oil. Start with 1/2 cup and keep adding more until
it flows smoothly when you dip a spoon into it, but not so thin that it
falls off in a stream. Use your judgment.
 Add parmesan cheese if serving immediately. If you’re planning to freeze
it, don’t add the parmesan cheese until after you defrost it and are
ready to serve.
If using a mortar and pestle, start with the washed and dried
basil leaves, garlic and nuts and add a small amount of coarse salt to
help break down the leaves. Pound with the pestle and slowly add a
little bit of olive oil. Keep working the mixture with the pestle and
add the rest of the oil as needed. The process takes a lot of patience
and time.
After
the pesto is made and the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta, holding
onto a half cup or so of the water. You can use this to thin out the
sauce when you’re mixing the pesto into the pasta.

Mix
the pesto with the pasta, then add the sautéed zucchini. Toss
everything together, adding more pasta water if you need to thin out the
sauce. Serve with additional parmesan cheese, if desired.

Grilled Shrimp with Pesto Pasta

 My last post was long. Very long. But there was a lot to tell — sorry if you tuned out.  If I l lost some of you on that you, you’ll be glad to see this one is blessedly short. And it’s about basil, everyone’s favorite summer herb, and shrimp too.

 If you’re growing basil, you’ve probably already had to cut it back at least once or twice and have made pesto a few times too. Here’s another way to enjoy that pesto. It’s not rocket science, but maybe you’ve never thought of putting the combo together. Just grill a few shrimp and you’ve transformed that ubiquitous pasta sauce into something a little special.
Don’t forget to put some of that pesto away in the freezer for the cold winter months ahead. You don’t have to use it only as a sauce for pasta (although that will be a nice reminder of summer when the January snows fall.) A tablespoon or two makes a wonderful addition to soups and stews too.
Grilled Shrimp with Pesto Pasta.
For two servings:
10 large shrimp (or however many you like)
4 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
springs of fresh thyme
salt, pepper
1 large plum tomato, peeled and deseeded and cut into strips (optional)
1/2 pound pasta (I used trofie, a classic shape for pesto)
about 1/2 cup of freshly made pesto alla genovese – directions below.
Grilled Shrimp
Buy large uncooked shrimp. Peel off the shells and devein the shrimp. Put the shrimp in a bowl with the olive oil, garlic, some salt, pepper and fresh herbs. I used thyme, but oregano would work too. If you want the shrimp to have a little kick, add some dried red pepper flakes. Let it sit for at least 1/2 hour to marinate.
Get the grill good and hot and rub the grates with a paper towel that’s been coated with vegetable oil. This will help the shrimp not to stick to the grates.
Grill the shrimp for a couple of minutes on each side and add to the pasta that’s been already mixed with the pesto.
For each portion, I also added strips of one large plum tomato that I had peeled and deseeded. (To peel easily, drop the tomato into a pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes.)
 
Pesto Recipe – Get the full instructions with photos here
Pesto Alla Genovese
The amounts aren’t exact. A lot depends on how firmly you pack the basil into the measuring cup, how large the garlic cloves are, and of course, your taste buds.

4 cups basil, loosely packed
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 cup Italian pine nuts, toasted, or pistachios (salted or unsalted), or toasted almonds or walnuts
extra virgin olive oil – as much as two cups, as needed to obtain a loose pesto.
1/4 cup – 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (or pecorino if desired)

If using a food processor: Tear leaves from stem, wash, dry and place in a food processor, along with the garlic, nuts and a small amount of the olive oil. Start with 1/2 cup and keep adding more until it flows smoothly when you dip a spoon into it, but not so thin that it falls off in a stream. Use your judgment.
Add parmesan cheese if serving immediately. If you’re planning to freeze it, don’t add the parmesan cheese until after you defrost it and are ready to serve.

If using a mortar and pestle, start with the washed and dried basil leaves, garlic and nuts and add a small amount of coarse salt to help break down the leaves. Pound with the pestle and slowly add a little bit of olive oil. Keep working the mixture with the pestle and add the rest of the oil as needed. The process takes a lot of patience and time.

Frittatine

These appetizers get the award for cuteness. And they taste great too. It’s a simple frittata made with spaghetti and cooked in a mini-muffin tin, then topped with a little pesto and tomato sauce. A friend named Diana found these on the blog “Foodalogue” and offered them at a recent reception. They were gone quicker than you can say “frittatine,” a word that means more than one small frittata.
Italian lesson of the day: frittata-singular; frittate-plural. Tiny frittata-frittatina; plural frittatina-frittatine.
Frittatine (From Foodalogue)

2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup crumbled bacon
1/2 cup peas
1 1/2 lbs. mozzarella shredded
8 eggs beaten
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano, shredded
salt and pepper
1 lb. thin spaghetti
sauce for topping
Directions:
1. Saute garlic, bacon and peas. Reserve to side.

2. Crack spaghetti in thirds, boil to al dente and drain.

3. Mix beaten eggs with cheeses, s+p, and fold in garlic/bacon/pea mixture.

4. Add drained spaghetti and mix.

5. Fill greased mini muffin tins.

6. Bake in 350 oven for about 10 minutes7. Cool.  Top with marinara and pesto sauce

Notes:

When you add the pasta to the egg mix, the cheeses will melt.  It will be easier to fill and mold them into the muffin cups if you allow the cheese to cool off a little and get tacky.

You can make these in advance and either refrigerate or freeze them in a baggie.
Bring to room temperature and then reheat in oven before saucing. (I reheated in a microwave for about 10 seconds and it held its shape perfectly.)
It’s a good buffet item because they can be served at room temperature.
If you use a larger muffin mold, it makes a lovely first dish or lunch with a salad.