I like pesto, but sometimes it can be a bit, well…bland. Especially when you get it in a jar, and you realize you need to use almost the whole thing to get any flavor. It’s so easy to make at home, especially when The Husband buys a big box of basil at Trader Joe’s, which completely forces my hand.
I don’t like using just basil, though. Luckily The Husband had also picked up some arugula, which is a perfect green to mix with basil for a pesto with a little kick.
Also, since we are going through a recession, sometimes it’s hard not to get some sticker shock when you look at a bag of pine nuts.
Don’t get me wrong—I can eat pine nuts by the handful, and love keeping a big bag from Costco in the freezer so I have them on hand. But sometimes you may not have $20 to spend on a bag of pine nuts, and in this pesto, you don’t need them. I used slivered almonds from Traders, instead. You don’t have to toast them, but it does add a great flavor.
The great thing about “pesto” is that you can change the ingredients to incorporate whatever you have on hand. Of course, I never leave out the garlic. Why would you? I put garlic in things that don’t even call for garlic!
I used this pesto on the Ancient Harvest quinoa linguine you can find easily at Whole Foods, because it’s just not as dense as regular pasta. The pesto works very well with its flavor and texture. I roasted some cherry tomatoes and crisped up a little prosciutto to sprinkle over the top, which of course can be omitted for the vegetarians among us.
So here’s my arugula-basil pesto recipe:
1 large handful of basil leaves
1 large handful of arugula
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 tsp. salt
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano (or parmesan, or whatever hard cheese you have on hand)
Make sure you take the basil leaves off the stems, and that the basil and arugula are washed and fairly dry. Pack the basil,
arugula, almonds, garlic and salt into the mini processor (or you can use a stick blender in a tall measuring cup) and cover with about 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Process until you have quite a nice paste; sometimes you need to open the processor up and stir it around a little bit. Add more olive oil too, if necessary, to get it to loosen up.
Once it’s almost to the right consistency, add the grated cheese and the pepper. Give it another whirl in the processor, and you should be done (see photo above).
See? Easy peasy! Now you can add it to whatever you like, even mashed potatoes or as a marinade for chicken.