If there’s one dish that always elicits an excited response when I say that I’m going to make it, it’s this one. It’s easy; this is not something that takes a tremendously long time, or requires any special technique or ingredients, really, to make. It’s homemade-tasting, because it IS homemade (unless you opt to use store bought pesto, which I’ll address in a bit, and is absolutely fine for this simple dish). I adore the pesto sauce poured over the (perfectly al dente!) pasta, the pastel green Easter-egg color is gorgeous and it manages to taste fresh and savory at the same time. It’s seriously flavorful, and did I mention fast??
Let’s dive into it; this post contains a recipe for homemade pesto, but as I mentioned before, there is no harm in using a little container of store bought pesto, especially if you don’t own a food processor or blender. The basic method is to make or buy pesto and then combine it with hot béchamel sauce that has been taken off the heat (you’re just warming up the pesto in its sauce base, basically. Any actual cooking of the pesto will take away the brightness of its herby, basil flavor. And we can’t have THAT). Then pour the now green sauce over al dente pasta of your choice. Serve it up, sprinkle with cheese, and enjoy!
Homemade Pesto Recipe
2 big handfuls of basil leaves (this does not need to be incredibly exact, it’s to your taste)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil plus additional as needed
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan and pecorino romano
1. Put all ingredients into a food processor or blender, then pulse until basil pieces are fine and combined.
2. Mix basil mixture with grated cheese and add additional olive oil as needed to get a smooth consistency. Pesto shouldn’t be runny, but shouldn’t be a thick paste either.
2 tbls unsalted butter
2 tbls flour
2 1/2 cups milk or cream
1. Melt butter over medium-low heat in a saucepan.
2. Add the flour and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly with a whisk (or a regular dinner fork if you don’t have a whisk) to prevent burning. You know it is ready for the liquid when the mixture doesn’t smell quite as “floury.”
3. After about a minute of constant stirring, add the milk or cream, about a cup at a time, and whisk into the flour/butter mixture until smooth. A trick for this is to use warm or hot milk as it absorbs faster. Be quick with the whisk, however, the flour will start to absorb the liquid very quickly if it is warm.
4. After all milk or cream has been added, stir over medium-low heat (maybe turn it a bit closer to medium at this stage) until it is a proper consistency for a sauce and coats the back of a spoon.
5. Remove the béchamel from the heat and stir in all of the pesto until it is a smooth, uniform light green.
Cook a 1 lb package of the pasta of your choosing to an al dente consistency (I used Barilla Thin Spaghetti) and drain. Pour the sauce over the drained pasta and toss the pasta until coated. Top with grated cheese and a twist of grated black pepper and serve.