Whole Wheat Pasta with Pesto


Pesto, of course, is a sauce you can use on anything, from vegetables to meats and fish.
TIME 20 to 30 minutes
MAKES 4 servings
Salt
2 loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove, or more to taste
2 tablespoons pine nuts
½ cup olive oil, or more to taste
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
1 pound any whole wheat pasta


Method
1 Bring a stockpot of water to a boil and salt it. Put the basil, a pinch of salt, the garlic, the nuts, and about half of the oil in a food processor or blender. Turn the machine on, stopping a couple times to scrape down the sides of the container and gradually adding the rest of the oil. Continue processing or blending until you have a relatively smooth, thick consistency. If you’re using a food processor, remove the blade. Stir in the cheese.

2 When the water boils, cook the pasta until it is tender but not mushy; start tasting after 5 minutes. When the pasta is almost done, thin the pesto by stirring in some of the pasta-cooking water—start with just a tablespoon so you don’t overdo it. You’re looking for the pesto to coat the back of a spoon.

3 When the pasta is done, scoop out and reserve at least 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain it. Return the pasta to the stockpot and quickly toss it with the pesto, adding more cooking water if necessary to coat the noodles. Taste and adjust the seasoning, top with more grated cheese if you like, and serve.

Variations
  • Make pesto from other light-tasting, grassy herbs like cilantro, parsley, mint, chives, or a combination. Just as with basil, use only the best leaves and tender stems.
  • Pecorino Romano (which is saltier than Parmesan) is another good cheese for pesto. Or instead of a hard cheese, try goat cheese, feta, or ricotta. Or use no cheese at all.
  • Change up the nuts—walnuts or pecans are nice—or for a nuttier pesto increase the quantity of nuts to 1 cup and decrease the basil to ½ cup.

Tips
  • I like the hearty texture and flavor of whole wheat pasta with pesto, but you can of course use regular pasta if you’d rather; any shape is fine.
  • Basil pesto will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to several days or in the freezer for several months (but why wait?). To help the sauce stay fresh tasting, don’t stir in the cheese until you’re ready to serve it, and after putting it in the container, drizzle a layer of olive oil over the top.

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