Chopping Board Pistachio Pesto w/ Balsamico

A few weeks ago I posted a review of Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift’s How to Eat Supper, so I figured what better place to start the 10^2+1 Cookbook Project? I plunked the book down on my lap, gave the pages a flip, and landed on this recipe for Pasta with Chopping Board Pistachio Pesto. The following page listed a variation on the recipe, called Monday Night Balsamic Spaghetti, and after thumbing back and forth between the two, I finally decided to combine them. The result was an amazingly robust, fresh-tasting dish.

I consider this experiment a raving success, and it just goes to show you that simple recipes can be just as good, if not better, than complicated dishes that take all night to prepare. And since I completely butchered the original recipe into my own franken-creation, I’m going to post it here. As it mentions in the book, chopping ingredients together saves you time and has the added benefit of creating an interesting marrying of flavors. Enjoy!

Chopping Board Pistachio Pesto w/ Balsamico

Pesto:
1/2 teaspoon course sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 garlic cloves
1 cup tightly-packed, coarsely-chopped chives
6 packed tablespoons fresh basil
1/3 cup shelled, salted pistachios (must be salted!)
2 tablespoons high-quality extra virgin olive oil for pesto
1 large chopped red onion
6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped (use less if you’re not a garlic zealot like me)
1 tablespoon high-quality extra virgin olive oil for onion

Pasta:
5 quarts well salted water in a large pot
1 pound linguine or penne (gluten free!)
1 cup parmigiano reggiano (I left this out with no adverse affect, but those of you who can eat dairy might appreciate it)
6 tablespoons high-quality aged balsamic vinegar

Bring pasta water to a boil. Be sure to salt your water, as this is a very important step to flavoring any pasta dish! Essentially, you want it to taste like the sea. Your pasta won’t absorb that much and this will severely cut down on the amount of salt you need to add to sauces. As such, be aware of this when seasoning any sauce you plan to use with salted pasta.

In a saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Add 1/4 cup of water, bring to a simmer, and add onions and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover pan. Cook for five minutes over medium heat, adding a little more water if necessary so that onion and garlic don’t color, only soften. Set pan aside.

On your chopping board, pile salt, pepper, and two garlic cloves, crushing and chopping with a large knife until fine. Pile on chives and basil, continuing to chop until fine. Add nuts and chop coarsely, then add olive oil directly to the chopping board, mixing and chopping until the whole thing is a consistency you prefer.

Add pasta to water and cook to al dente. When it’s done, reserve 2/3 cup of the starchy pasta water, then drain and rinse the pasta. Add reserved pasta water to pan with onion and garlic, simmering it for a few minutes over high heat to thicken. When consistency is thicker, lower hear to medium and add pesto. Don’t cook it – heat only long enough for flavors to mingle, just a minute or two.

Add drained pasta to pan, tossing with pesto (and cheese, if you’re using it). Sprinkle with 6 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, toss to incorporate, and serve hot.

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