Classic Easy Pesto alla Genovese Recipe and Instructions

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Short and sweet this week: a classic pesto recipe for the handmade pasta I gave you instructions for a few weeks ago.At the beginning of October, I had to bring in my plants from the balcony in anticipation of the cold weather, which, as of today, hasn’t arrived yet. Anyway, I harvested my basil:

And ended up with this much (a couple of cups):

And this:

I’d always wanted to try making pesto but was a little intimidated by it until I heard Lidia Bastianich on one of my favorite podcasts, America’s Test Kitchen. She explained that “pesto” comes from an Italian word meaning “mash”, “grind” or “beat”. Therefore, pesto isn’t cooked; the ingredients are mashed and beaten in a mortar and pestle or blender. Sounded easy.

FYI, there
are many types of pesto from different regions of Italy. For example,
traditional Sicilian pesto has tomatoes in it.

The version I describe here is pesto alla Genovese and is the most common one in the States. It’s the creamy green one you’re probably thinking of right now.

Additionally, there are
thousands of variations for each version, such as using walnuts instead
of pine nuts. Fortunately this gives me a lot of delicious homework to
do for this blog – I’ll keep you posted. read more

Parmesan and Truffle Oil Pasta Sauce Recipe

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On the heels of my homemade fresh pasta tutorial, I wanted to give you another delicious sauce to put over it. This one is a variation of a recipe I learned at my cooking lesson last year at Tenuta Casanova in Tuscany.For this recipe you’ll need a good truffle oil. Do not buy truffle oil at the regular supermarket! It must be made with real truffles and must be the strong, earthy, expensive kind you might buy at wineries in Tuscany. It should be extra-virgin olive oil infused with real truffles. You will have to go to a gourmet specialty market to find the real thing. The low-priced truffle oil at a general supermarket has a thin, weak flavor and contains artificial truffle aroma and flavor.I got my truffle oil at Tenuta Casanova and then another bottle later in the year at another place in Tuscany. I understand that Oregon produces some good truffles these days and there is at least one real truffle oil on the market from there. So maybe you don’t have to go to Tuscany for this recipe, though I would highly recommend it.Note that, in the photo below, the Casanova oil on the left has actual truffle slices in it.

This cream sauce is actually built on the pasta. What that means is that you cook the pasta to al dente first then lower the heat and make the sauce in the pan with the cooked pasta. Therefore, a mini-tutorial:

How to Cook Pasta to Al Dente:
1. Bring five to six quarts (5 to 6 liters) water to a fast boil in a large stock pot or pasta cooker.
2. Add 2 tablespoons (40 g) salt.
3. Add the pasta slowly so the water continues to boil. If you are using dried pasta, some of it may not fit into the water immediately. Wait for the part in the water to soften for a few seconds before gently pressing the still-dried part into the water.
4. Stir with a wooden spoon to keep the pasta from sticking together during the first two minutes. Do not add oil for this.
5. Continue to boil the pasta, uncovered, for enough time to get the right texture. Fresh pasta cooks much faster than dried. If you are cooking packaged pasta, start testing the pasta a few minutes before the time is up. If you are cooking fresh pasta, even if you’ve dried it after you made it, start testing about two minutes after the pasta goes into the pot.
6. Test the pasta. Take a noodle out of the pot, briefly blow on it so you don’t burn your mouth, then chew it. This is the trickiest part, because, first of all, you must know what al dente feels like on your teeth when you chew the pasta. Al dente pasta has a satisfying, slight resistance when you bite into it but will not be crunchy. Undercooked pasta has a floury taste and is hard and chalky. Overcooked pasta is mushy and limp and not pleasant to eat. Keep testing the pasta every 15 to 20 seconds or so until you get al dente.
7. Turn off the heat and drain the water from the pasta immediately. Remember that the pasta continues to cook as you taste it and it will take you a few more seconds to drain it. Therefore, try to catch the pasta just before it’s al dente to get it just perfect. Yes, this takes practice! read more