I’m humming On the Road Again as I type. This week, I’ve only seen my desk for two days and next week will be the same. What I’ve seen instead are meeting rooms, the Capital Mall in Salem, and one of the most-overpriced hotel rooms I’ve stayed in in a long time. I’ve also seen a lot of my car, listened to four episodes of NPR’s Ask Me Another, one episode of This American Life, and one episode of Radio Lab. In short, I couldn’t wait to get home to see my husband, the dog, the cats, and my comfortable bed. I also couldn’t wait to get home to cook up some of the abundance that’s been developing in my little urban container garden.
I planted four tomato plants this year and three basil plants, two Sweet Basil plants (I’m guessing these are Genovese Basil plants – they are the ones that Trader Joe’s sells) and one Spicy Bush Basil plant. The basil took a while to warm up to the idea of growing, but now that it has, I have a plethora of basil on my hands. In past years, I’ve used my handy Cuisinart to create pesto cubes that I’ve frozen, but one of my Cuisinart parts didn’t survive the move to the new house, and I just haven’t gotten around to try to figure out if I can easily replace the part. So – lots of Basil, no food processor, and a serious longing for pesto. Fortunately, I ran across a recipe for How to Make Pesto Like an Italian Grandmother from 101 Cookbooks (one of my all-time favorite blogs – honestly, probably the first cooking blog I ever read regularly).
I decided last night to make two-days-worth of a simple pasta salad. After a long drive home from Bend, Oregon, I retreated to the garden, harvested several bunches of both the Spicy Bush Basil and the Genovese Basil and started chopping. Hand chopped pesto is a lot easier than I thought it would be. I don’t have a mezzaluna, so used our sharpest kitchen knife and just chopped, chopped, chopped. I skipped the garlic cloves (I had face-to-face meetings with people in the afternoon – didn’t want to offend anyone with raw garlic breath), used a little bit of parmesan cheese and a handful of pine nuts. I chopped and chopped some more. When I was finished, it wasn’t the prettiest pesto ever (basil oxidizes so quickly), but it was the best smelling and tasting basil I’ve ever made. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to creating a pesto that I ate on our honeymoon in Rome – and I have the fondest memories of that pesto: it came from a corner grocery store and we ate it with handmade ravioli in the kitchen of the weird little villa hotel room we were staying at in a tucked away corner of the city.
This is less recipe than more a few suggestions about how to make a very simple, but very delicious meal.
Pesto, Tomato, and Mozzarella Pasta Salad
Dried or fresh pasta
Several handfuls of basil
A handful of pine nuts
Several large pinches of freshly grated parmesan cheese
Fresh mozzarella (in water, though you could also use regular mozzarella or even more parmesan or another cheese all together)
Boil a pasta of your choice using as much dried pasta as servings you are planning to prepare. I used bow tie pasta since it’s what I had on hand. Chop up a tomato or two. Make the pesto by chopping up basil leaves, adding pine nuts and chopping, adding parmesan and chopping (see Heidi Swanson’s lovely full recipe here). Add the pesto to your pasta. Add tomatoes and cheese. Drizzle with olive oil.
I heated this up for just a minute in the microwave at work, just to take the chill off the pasta and the pesto, but not so long to fully melt the mozzarella.