June 30, 2014

Spaghetti with Parsley Pesto

With summer finally here, the markets abound with fresh herbs, making this season the perfect time to transform those tender greens from mere garnishes into the stars of your meals.  Therefore, I’d like to introduce you to this vibrant and vegetarian recipe of Spaghetti with Parsley Pesto!    


What I really love about this summer dish, besides its sublime simplicity, is its daring versatility.  Although, basil is the main player in the classic pesto, replacing it with the sturdy, more affordable and available year-round parsley makes for a bright and balanced sauce.  Swapping in walnuts (which I always have lingering in my pantry) for almonds also works wonders.  Tossing in some garlic instead of chives will nicely boost the entire mixture.  Lastly, adding white cheddar in lieu of “the king of cheeses” never worked better.  Needless to say, this recipe is wide open to adaptations; personally, I prefer the parsley, flat-leaf or curly, whichever I can get my hands on, but feel free to try it with basil or cilantro for a new dimension and elegant transformation.     

There’s nothing labor-intensive about this meal; in fact, you don’t even have to cook anything but the pasta, yet the flavors and nuances are complex and sophisticated.  The freshness and vivid color of the parsley shine through.  The nuttiness of the almonds adds depth, while the subtle garlicky aroma fades quietly in the background.  The floral olive oil and the mild sharpness of the cheese enhance the herbal notes and make this dish mighty successful.  Enjoy and Happy Fourth of July!  


Spaghetti with Parsley Pesto
Adapted from Bon Appétit (June 2013)

Makes: 6 servings


·         1 lb. spaghetti or bucatini
·         Kosher salt
·         ½ cup unsalted, roasted almonds or walnuts
·         4 cups (packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (curly parsley also works well)
·         1 clove of garlic (the recipe calls for  ¾ cup chopped fresh chives, but I don’t always have them on hand and I found that garlic works very well, too)
·         ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
·         ½ cup finely grated white cheddar cheese or Parmesan
·         Freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Drain, reserving about 2 cups of pasta cooking liquid.    

Meanwhile, pulse the almonds in a food processor until smooth.  Add the parsley, garlic, oil and cheddar cheese, and process until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.  

Toss the pasta and pesto in a large bowl, adding pasta cooking liquid, ¼ cup at a time, until saucy.  Season with salt and pepper. 

Do ahead: Pesto can be made 5 days ahead.  Cover the surface directly and chill.

Note:  You can also try this recipe with basil or cilantro. 

Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)