Basil Pesto Sauce

basil

The warm months are approaching for many readers and where I live, it is warm now. The warm weather will allow me to plant basil, which is a staple of the Italian cuisine. Basil is very easy to grow in plant pots on your patio.  I usually buy 6 plants and divide them between two pots. These two pots give me plenty of basil to use in flavoring sauces or making pesto. Basil pesto is a favorite in my house and when the children and grandchildren visit, it is one of the requests  for dinner.  Not only is Pesto excellent for dressing pasta, a tablespoon or two is wonderful as a topping for grilled fish or chicken or roasted asparagus.

Many Pesto recipes call for Pignoli or pine nuts, but they can be expensive and difficult to find.  Walnuts or almonds are a fine substitute.  Also, you will find recipes that add the grated cheese during the processing of the sauce, but I like to add the cheese when I mix the sauce with the pasta.  Additionally, this sauce is easy to double and freeze half for another meal.  Pesto frozen without the cheese tastes much better.

The sauce is not cooked and only requires the use of a processor or blender. You can make it ahead and keep it covered on your counter until dinner time.  The sauce may also be covered and kept in the refrigerator for a few days.

To make the sauce, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups of basil leaves packed tightly in a measuring cup
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup nuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of very good extra virgin olive oil

Place the garlic, nuts, salt and pepper in the processor and pulse a few times. Add the basil leaves and with the processor running, add the olive oil slowly.  Process until the mixture becomes a paste. Pour the sauce into your pasta serving bowl and set aside.

Cook 1 lb. pasta, such as linguine or angel hair and, just before you drain the pasta, remove 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and set it aside. Add the drained pasta to the serving bowl with the pesto, mix slightly and then add the pasta water and 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese.  Mix well.  All you need to round out this meal is a fresh tomato salad.

bolognese

Bolognese Sauce

When you are in the mood for a meat sauce, Bolognese, is the way to go. It is a creamy, flavorful sauce and very representative of Italian cuisine.  This recipe has been in my family for many years and it is one of the first sauces I made for my husband after we were married.  It is still one of his favorites.

This is where you can make a healthy choice and choose ground turkey breast (preferably turkey raised without antibiotics) over beef. This sauce is delicious over short thick pasta, such as Rigatoni.

To make this sauce:

In a large pot heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Add 1/2 cup of chopped onion, 1 diced carrot, 1 diced celery stalk and 1 small minced garlic clove.

Cook the vegetables for a few minutes until softened.  Don’t let the vegetables brown.  

Add 1 lb. lean ground beef or ground turkey breast and cook until the meat is no longer pink.  

Add 1 cup red wine and let the sauce cook for a few minutes.

Add the following ingredients to the pot:

  • 1-28 oz. container Pomi chopped Italian tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Bring the sauce to just the boiling point, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for 2 hours.  Just before you are ready to serve add 1/2 cup fat free half and half or whole milk. Heat until warmed.

One point to remember about dressing pasta with sauce is “just a little”.  Italians don’t like their pasta swimming in sauce. You can always add more. 

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