PESTO SAUCES

In Italy, pesto acts as a versatile condiment, dressing up a simple plate of pasta or adorning a piece of simply prepared fish, chicken, or pork. Pestos can be made with lots of different ingredients—from basil and parsley to roasted red peppers, olives, and more. Regardless of the type, a good pesto has two basic requirements: You should use a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil because its flavor will really shine through, and you should toast the garlic to help tame its fiery, raw flavor (toast the unpeeled cloves in a dry skillet over medium heat until their color darkens slightly; let the cloves cool slightly, then peel and mince). Note that the flavor and texture of these pestos vary quite a bit, as does the amount you will need to use to adequately coat your pasta. All the recipes here provide enough pesto to sauce at least 1 pound of pasta; if using as a sauce for fish, chicken, or pork, we recommend using about ¼ cup of pesto per serving.
TO MAKE PESTO Process all ingredients except oil and cheese in food processor until smooth, scraping down bowl as needed. With processor running, slowly add oil until incorporated. Transfer pesto to bowl, stir in cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste. When tossing pesto with cooked pasta, add some of pasta cooking water as needed (up to ½ cup) to loosen consistency of pesto.
TO MAKE AHEAD Pesto can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. To prevent browning, press plastic wrap flush to surface, or top with thin layer of olive oil.

Classic Basil Pesto
MAKES ¾ cup FAST VEG
Pounding the basil briefly before processing the pesto helps bring out its flavorful oils. To bruise the basil, place it in a large zipper-lock bag and pound lightly with a rolling pin or meat pounder. The optional parsley helps give the pesto a vibrant green hue. For sharper flavor, substitute Pecorino Romano for the Parmesan.
2 cups fresh basil leaves, lightly bruised
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves (optional)
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
3 garlic cloves, toasted and minced
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

MAKES 1½ cups FAST VEG
This pesto tastes great when made with homemade roasted red peppers (see here ), but jarred roasted red peppers work fine in this recipe. The pesto made with jarred peppers will have a more acidic flavor, so before using them be sure to rinse and dry the jarred peppers well.
2 roasted red bell peppers, peeled and chopped (1 cup)
¼ cup fresh parsley leaves
3 garlic cloves, toasted and minced
1 shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Tomato and Almond Pesto

Tomato and Almond Pesto
MAKES 1½ cups FAST VEG
This is a traditional Sicilian pesto known as Trapanese . A single pepperoncini adds a nice, spicy kick; however, you can substitute ½ teaspoon of red wine vinegar and ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes for the pepperoncini if necessary.
12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes
½ cup fresh basil leaves
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 small pepperoncini, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1 garlic clove, toasted and minced
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (½ cup)
Green Olive and Orange Pesto

Green Olive and Orange Pesto
MAKES 1½ cups FAST VEG
Using high-quality green olives is crucial to the success of this pesto. Look for fresh green olives (packed in brine) in the supermarket’s refrigerated section or at the salad bar.
1½ cups fresh parsley leaves
½ cup pitted green olives
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 garlic cloves, toasted and minced
½ teaspoon grated orange zest plus 2 tablespoons juice
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1½ ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (¾ cup)

 

 

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