Monday, July 14, 2008

Pasta Partner

My husband and I learned how to make pesto more than two decades ago, while visiting friends in Laguna Beach, California. They harvested handfuls of fresh basil from their tiny garden and turned it into the most wonderful pasta sauce we had ever tasted. And the flavor was so intense that we only needed one or two tablespoons of the brilliant green sauce per plate of pasta.

Our young daughters had never tasted another pasta sauce at home. But as they progressed through elementary school, the number of invitations they received to have dinner at friends' houses grew - and their exposure to new foods increased. "Mom, they had red sauce on their spaghetti!" said one daughter after a dinner visit with a friend, as if she'd just met a being from another planet. From that point on, we occasionally served red spaghetti sauce at home, to help demystify this 'foreign' food.

But pesto remains a family favorite, especially when made hours earlier from freshly cut basil. We cover pizza crusts with it, serve boiled shrimp or grilled chicken with it, atop pasta, and pair it with polenta. If you'd like to make your own, here's our recipe:

makes approximately two cups

2 cups basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons walnuts (may substitute pine nuts)

Combine thoroughly in food processor until garlic and walnuts are ground well. Refrigerate until ready to use. Lasts in refrigerator for 4-5 days. Or freeze in ice cube trays until ready to use and then thaw.

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