Oooh, summer pesto--I could eat it every day of the week. And last week we pretty much did. I have a basil "bush" growing in my backyard, so gathering up a couple of cups of the fresh herb doesn't even make a dent in my plant. If you don't have a flourishing basil plant, try hitting your local farmers market where you can usually buy a large bunch for much less than at the grocery store. Then you can make up a monster batch (recipe following) and try this yummy summer salad, courtesy of my sweet friend Melynie (with a few modifications by me), and this Creamy Pesto Pasta from my favorite cooking blog, Our Best Bites! Enjoy the last few weeks of summer!
Grilled Chicken Pesto Salad Recipe
Mixed greens and baby spinach
Pesto sauce (see recipe following)
Fresh, shredded Parmesan cheese
Grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
Toasted pine nuts
Vinaigrette or other dressing (I like Newman's Own Balsamic Vinaigrette)
Make a bed of mixed greens on a dish. Spread pesto sauce on grilled chicken, cut in strips and lay on greens. Add halved tomotoes and toasted pine nuts. Crumble goat cheese over top and finish with a sprinkle of Parmesan. The pesto is so tasty you might not even need dressing!
Creamy Pesto Pasta Recipe
Courtesy of ourbestbites.com
1/2 batch Guiltless Alfredo Sauce
1/2 lb Farfalle/Bowtie Pasta (that’s 1/2 a 16oz box or a little over 3 cups dry pasta)
3.5 oz Pesto (that’s about 1/3 cup, or 1/2 of a 7oz container they sell in stores)
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
8oz mushrooms (about 3 C sliced)
3T pine nuts
extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 425.
1. Prepare your Guiltless Alfredo sauce. When it’s finished, just make sure it’s covered and set it aside.
2. Place a large stock pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil.
3. Remove stems from mushrooms and slice. Place tomatoes and mushrooms on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil (3-4 T should do it) toss with your fingers making sure everything is coated and then lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Cook in the pre-heated oven for 12-15 minutes. You can tell the tomatoes are ready when the skins start to split. Don’t overcook them or they’ll be mush!
4. When water comes to a boil add a little salt and the pasta.
5. Toast pine nuts: Place nuts in a dry skillet on med heat. Stir constantly. They will start to turn glossy which means the oils are releasing. Then they’ll start to brown. (have you checked your pasta? go check your pasta) Let them get golden brown and then remove them from the pan to cool. It should take about 7-10 minutes total.
6. Your pasta should be done, drain it if you haven’t already.
7. Add pesto to alfredo sauce and stir to combine well.
8. Tomatoes and mushrooms should be done about now, take them out of the oven.
Put it all together! Place pasta in a large bowl and combine with as much sauce as you need. Place tomatoes and mushrooms on top and sprinkle on lots of fresh parmesan cheese. Sprinkle pine nuts on top and serve.
Homemade Pesto Recipe
Courtesy of my dear friend Deborah Jensen
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 medium cloves garlic peeled (I used 1/2 the garlic amount to suit my family's taste)
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Combine basil, pine nuts, garlic, and Parmesan in a food processor until finely chopped. With machine running slowly, pour ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil through the feed tube and pulse until combined. If the sauce seems dry (it should be a thick paste) add a little more olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Use immediately or store in the fridge for up to one week.
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