After leaving you with such sad photos for the last two recipes, I resolved to make up for it with this one.
Basil is finally reappearing in the stores, and what better way to make use of it than pesto? This pesto is delicious, and I'd make it again on its own to eat with bread. The bright green color of the arugula and pesto in the pasta makes me feel like spring is really almost here.
I thought making pesto would be hard, but really all you do is put a bunch of things into a blender and press a button. It's impossible to over-blend, so you can mix and taste and add and mix and taste.
Once you've got the pesto finished, you cook some mushrooms (I used crimini, but any will do) in butter (I couldn't resist, but olive oil is fine too). The recipe says to use as garnish, but I really liked the earthiness the mushrooms added to the overall flavor, so I made a bunch so that they were a more substantial part of the dish. The mushrooms may take a while to cook, so start them at the same time you set the water on the stove to boil.
Make sure to get the walnuts nice and toasted, or they'll taste a little bitter.
The only bitterness you want is from the arugula (or whatever bitter green you chose); the bite of the arugula is a nice contrast to the mushrooms and pesto and it keeps the pasta from feeling or tasting heavy. Trader Joe's has arugula for a really reasonable price.
Sometimes, I make important notes on my recipes:
Pasta with Walnut Pesto and Arugula
From Food and Wine
1 cup walnut halves (4 ounces)
2 cups lightly packed basil leaves
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound pasta-- something in small pieces, not long noodles
6 ounces watercress, arugula or other bitter greens, thick stems discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
Sautéed mushrooms, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are fragrant and lightly browned. Let cool completely. Coarsely chop half of the walnuts and set the remaining toasted walnuts aside.
2. In a food processor, pulse the remaining walnuts with the basil and garlic until the walnuts are finely chopped. With the machine on, add the olive oil in a thin stream and process until the pesto is almost smooth. Add 1/2 cup of the cheese and pulse until just incorporated. Transfer the walnut pesto to a bowl and season it with salt and pepper.
3. Add the broken lasagna noodles to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Return the drained pasta to the pot. Add the watercress and walnut pesto and toss well. Add the reserved pasta water and toss again until well coated. Transfer the pasta to bowls, garnish with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese, the chopped walnuts and sautéed mushrooms and serve.