P esto is the perfect complement to pasta, chicken, and shrimp any time of year, but especially in the spring when fresh herbs like basil and parsley are in abundance. Herbs are actually pretty easy to grow and maintain, and this is coming from the biggest brown thumb on the planet! Just the smell of these aromatic greens livens up my senses and awakens my taste buds to the new season.
Pesto is a raw sauce, traditionally made with lots of basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, lemon juice, and Parmigiano cheese. To give my pesto an added crunch and salty bite, I always substitute shelled pistachios for the pine nuts and Pecorino-Romano cheese for the Parmigiano.
Start with 3 cups of fresh herbs. Purists will stick to just large genovese basil leaves, which is fine. I add a handful of fresh parsley to give my sauce an extra layer of vibrancy and freshness.
In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, coarsely pulse the garlic and pistachios.
Add the herbs, lemon zest, lemon juice, grated cheese, salt and pepper.
Turn the processor on and add olive oil through feed tube.
Slowly add the water until mixture starts to come together; pulse until smooth.
Check the pesto’s consistency. You may need to add a little more water or olive oil. You can even add more cheese, or salt and pepper to taste. If I’m boiling pasta at the same time, I’ll reserve a little of the pasta water to create a silky smooth sauce when combined with the pesto.
Toss with your favorite pasta or serve over grilled chicken or shrimp. The image of the elbow pasta below is a brown rice pasta made by Tinkyada and is readily available in most local groceries. Barilla makes a good quality gluten-free pasta as well.
If you don’t have to worry about gluten allergies, I recommend a whole-wheat short pasta like fusilli or penne. The shape of these kinds of pasta really holds onto the sauce; the nuttiness of the whole-grain is a good complement with the pesto.
Garnish with freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.