One of the most well known foods from Liguria is also one of the most versatile - pesto. Basil pesto has an amazing fresh taste, and can be used in dozens of different kinds of pasta. You can definitely stray outside of pasta, though. One of my favorite things to do with leftover pesto is to use it as a condiment on a panini. Take some of your homemade focaccia bread, layer it up with grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, mozzarella, and pesto and just grill it up to get an amazing sandwich.
You can even get creative with the kind of pesto that you make. Though basil pesto is traditional, one of my favorite kinds of pesto (and one that I experimented with making last night) is sun-dried tomato pesto. Just substitute the sun-dried tomatoes for the basil in the pesto recipe below. I could (and have) eat this by the jarful just as a spread over crostini.
Since I was making traditional basil pesto last night along with my sun-dried tomato pesto, I decided to make a traditional pasta dish to use with the basil pesto - Trofie al pesto. Trofie is a type of pasta that is perfect to make at home because it is one of the few types that doesn't need a pasta machine! Often this dish is made with green beans and potatoes mixed in. Instead, I grilled up pieces of chicken breast and added that to the pasta and pesto mixture. This way, I can use the extra chicken in that panini I was talking about!
1. Basil Pesto
Adapted from Simply Recipes
2 cups fresh basil
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 gloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese
- Put basil and pine nuts in food processor. Pulse several times.
- Scrape down sides of processor, add garlic, and pulse again.
- Add olive oil and parmigiano cheese and pulse again until everything is well Incorporated.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
3 cups all-purpose flour and extra for flouring surface
1 tsp salt
1 cup cold water
- Combine all purpose flour and salt in a large bowl. Create a well in the middle and add in the water.
- Using the tines of a fork, begin to mix together the flour mixture and water. When the dough is too thick to use a fork, use your hands to continue mixing the dough until all of the flour is incorporated. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour and mix together.
- When the dough is still tacky but not sticky, knead the dough for 8 minutes.
- Form the dough into a disk shape. Sprinkle dough with flour, wrap in plastic, and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.
- Sprinkle a large cookie sheet with semolina flour and a flat work surface with all purpose flour.
- Cut a 2/3 inch strip from the dough (keep the rest of the dough covered except when using).
- Roll strip on a floured surface until it is a 1/3 inch thick rope. Cut the rope into 1/4 inch pieces.
- Take one piece of dough with your right hand and place it at the heel of your left hand, holding your left hand over the cookie sheet. Roll your right hand forward quickly and with pressure and let the dough fall onto the cookie sheet. The dough will shape into a little cylinder with tapered ends. Do this with the rest of the pieces of dough.
- When you have shaped all of the pieces of dough from one rope, sprinkle the pasta with semolina flour and shake the cookie sheet to coat. Push these to the end of the cookie sheet and continue with the next rope. Be sure to keep the pasta in only one layer so that they do not stick to each other.
- Leave pasta uncovered at room temperature for 1-2 hours before cooking.
3. Trofie al Pesto
2 chicken breasts
Freshly made Trofie pasta (or 1 pound linguine as a substitute)
- Make the above pesto and trofie pasta.
- Grill chicken breasts and cut into 1/2 inch chunks.
- Shake the trofie in a colander to shake off excess flour.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt the water.
- Pour trofie into the pot and begin checking for readiness after about 30 seconds. The pasta should take only about 30 seconds to 2 minutes to cook, depending on the size of your trofie, the heat of the water, etc. Fresh pasta cooks much faster than dried pasta, so watch it carefully!
- Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Stir in the chicken and as much pesto sauce as you would like. Serve with grated parmigiano cheese on top.
Ryan's rating of Trofie al Pesto - 4.