I can’t take credit for the lush green foliage that now dominates our back deck. My husband J. is in charge of container gardening, and I cook the results. I know I shouldn’t speak too soon, but it looks like we are going to have quite a harvest of tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and herbs. This should make up for Mother Nature’s relentless heat last year that left us a bit disappointed with the final yield. Our basil plants seemed to be lagging behind, so I decided to pinch off enough leaves to make a batch of pesto in hopes of encouraging growth.
Pesto is often considered only a sauce, but I think of it as an all-purpose topping from a sandwich spread to a dressing for grain salads. I stuck with a traditional application to keep things simple, but I upped the ante by making pasta from scratch. It had been quite a while since I prepared homemade pasta, and I had forgotten how quickly it comes together. Some of the time spent waiting for the dough to rest was made up for in the minimal cooking time. J. and I enjoyed an effortless Sunday dinner of fresh pasta with pesto, a true team effort.
Fresh Pasta with Pesto
5 ounces all-purpose flour
5 ounces semolina flour
Pinch of salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup walnuts plus more for garnish
1/2 ounce Parmesan, grated, plus more for garnish
1 handful basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
To make the pasta, place both flours and salt into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until the flours are combined. Add the eggs and olive oil and pulse until a dough forms. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for a couple minutes until the dough is smooth. Form the dough into a round disk and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight. (If the dough is refrigerated, make sure to let it come to room temperature before rolling out the pasta.)
While the pasta dough is resting, make the pesto. Pulse the garlic cloves in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade until they are minced. Add the walnuts, Parmesan, basil, salt and pepper. Puree the mixture and while the motor is running, drizzle the olive oil through the feeder tube until the pesto is fully combined. Set aside.
Divide the pasta dough into 4 pieces keeping them covered. Working with one piece of dough at a time, flatten slightly and feed through the smooth rollers of a pasta machine starting at the widest setting. Fold the pasta sheet in half each time it is fed through at a narrower setting until the pasta sheet is very thin but does not tear. Place the pasta sheets on a floured work surface to dry for 10 minutes.
Cut the pasta sheets into 12-inch lengths. Sprinkle with flour and roll them up loosely. Using a knife, trim the rough edges and cut into 1/4-inch wide strips. Unroll and place the strips on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta for 2-3 minutes until al dente. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta to a large bowl. Toss with pesto, garnish with walnuts and Parmesan and serve immediately.
Note: Fresh pasta can be made by hand. Combine the flours and salt. Make a well in the center and add the eggs and olive oil. Whisk the eggs and olive oil and gradually incorporate the flour. Once the dough has formed, knead until it becomes smooth, about 10 minutes.