For me, pesto is the ultimate comfort food, and it’s an easy thing to have on hand. If you make more than you can use in one meal, you can freeze the leftover pesto in muffin trays (or ice cube trays), and toss it in with warm pasta the next time you make it. Anyway, I love this pesto, and it’s a simple dinner.
3-4 cloves garlic, skins on
1/4 c. pinenuts
2 c. basil leaves, packed
1/4 c. olive oil
1/3 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 t. salt
Warm a small skillet over medium heat, and toast the pinenuts until fragrant and lightly browned (be careful not to scorch–turn the heat down if the nuts are blackening), tossing the pan gently every couple of minutes. Remove nuts to a small bowl to cool, and add the garlic to the pan. Heat garlic until fragrant, and skins have browned as well, about 6-8 minutes. Remove to a cutting board to cool.
After nuts and garlic have cooled enough to touch, peel the skins off of the garlic and place both the garlic and nuts in a food processor (I do this in my mini-prep plus–a very small food processor). Add the basil, olive oil and salt and process until finely chopped. Remove to a bowl, and add the parmesan cheese. Pesto is done.
Red Pepper, Chicken, and Pesto Pasta
So, for a meal, I heat some olive oil, saute a diced onion and red pepper until softened (about 8 minutes), and turn off the heat. Meanwhile, I either reheat or cook chicken sausages until done (I like Sweet Italian or Apple Sausage), and then slice them and add the it to the onion and red pepper mixture. I then toss the onion/sausage mixture with cooked pasta (I like either penne or spaghetti) and the pesto in one bowl. It’s a whole meal in one :).
Note: I’ve learned this year that there are a lot of different combinations for pesto that work out well. A few that I’ve tried are substituting 1 c. parsley and 1 c. spinach for the basil, and substituting walnuts for pinenuts. You can also add spinach or parsley to the basic pesto–it keeps the pesto greener and gives it a few more nutrients as well.