What to do with the abundance of basil leaves growing on my fire escape? My wife doesn't like basil, mint, parsley or cilantro unless the leaves are processed as in pesto.This is mildly annoying since I love all of those herbs as an addition to my dishes. But, being the exceptional husband I am, I try to comply with the peculiarities of her food tastes.Two weeks ago, I found a recipe (on Chow) for a white bean humus which included basil leaves. It was quite good, so I decided to try another bean dish (pasta fagiole) using pesto in place of the usual tomato sauce. The results were equally good and will be added to my repertoire.
So, for the two of us, I used one garlic clove minced, one celery stalk diced, 1/2 a medium sized onion diced, about 1 cup of white kidney beans (I used my own beans with their water flavored with olive oil, red pepper and garlic. If you use canned beans, drain them and add more spice and garlic to the recipe), 1 cup of dried pasta (small noodles or shells suitable for soup) , tomato paste and pesto sauce to taste. If you use canned beans, also have some chicken stock handy or in a pinch, you can use pasta water.
To make the pesto sauce, you need a cup of tightly packed basil leaves, 1 clove of garlic minced, a handful of pine nuts lightly toasted, and about 3/4 cup of grating cheese (Peccorino Romano, Parmigiana or Grana Padano) in the bowl of a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle.
Turn on the motor and slowly add olive oil till the mixture is incorporated. I add a little salt and a sprinkle of Vitamin C powder to keep the color a bright green. Set aside.
Now, you may begin cooking the garlic, celery and onion in a heavy pot over medium heat. Salt it and stir occasionally till the vegetables are soft (approximately 5 minutes).
Meanwhile, add pasta to a pot of boiling water well salted.
Some may argue that it isn't necessary to add tomato paste, but I find it adds to the taste. I also squirted a little hot sauce to the pan. Notice I've cleared a hot spot to allow the tomato paste to toast awhile and remove its' raw taste.
After a minute, I stir the paste into the vegetables.
Finally, I add the beans to the pot. Since I cook my beans in a lot of water and add additional olive oil, garlic and hot pepper flakes at the end of their cooking time, I don't think chicken broth is needed, so I added about 1&1/2 cups of the pasta water to the pot and cook it for about 5 minutes. Then, I add the drained pasta and cook it an additional minute. Finally, I turn off the heat and add the pesto to the pot. The basil pesto is a fresh sauce so don't allow it to cook. I waited about a minute with the pan off the heat before adding it.
I just learned I have a few new regular readers of my blog from the Philippines. Welcome and please feel free to comment or ask any questions you may have. Salamat!