Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"BLT" Pesto Pasta

BLT pesto pasta - I add sliced raw mushrooms
to my bowl because I'm kind of addicted to them right now.
I love basil pesto, it's so easy to make and flexible  enough to customize based on what you've got in the house.  Like my recipe doesn't use pine nuts because I don't buy them (they're too expensive!), instead I use chopped almonds from the bulk bin.  I buy about a cup's worth and keep them in the bag in a Tupperware container in the freezer. I also add spinach if I've got it to stretch it out to make more pasta and add some nutrition, the basil is a strong enough flavor to carry it through the whole dish. 

Another beautiful quality about pesto is that it freezes well. Some recipes mention leaving the Parmesan cheese out if you're going to freeze it and then add it when you defrost it, but I think it turns out fine to make the full recipe and put any extra in an ice cube tray and freeze it.  For me, I find two ice cubes is enough for a 1-person serving on 2 ounces of pasta. I'll pull out a couple cubes and have pesto pasta for lunch when the feeling strikes me.

The only disappointing thing is that basil wasn't available at my local grocery store until recently so I was only able to buy it at the farmers' market during the summer.  But then the other day while I was shopping I saw that they started offering packets of organic basil next to the tomatoes. Yay!  I immediately started planning my next pesto meal.

One caveat: I don't know how you make pesto without an immersion blender, that's the only way I've ever made it.  Does it work in a regular blender if you're working with such a small batch? 


This is my own regular recipe for pesto, all I did was add some bacon.  It's not really "BLT" since there's no lettuce and no mayo and no bread, but I think the spinach stands in for the lettuce well enough and the pasta counts as bread. 

If you want to make this gluten-free, be sure to put it on a gluten-free pasta.

To make it vegetarian, you can sub out the bacon for any bacon-flavored vegetarian product such as Bac-O's or veggie bacon strips.


4-5 servings depending on how hungry you are
  • 6 oz. pasta - I used elbow mac
  • 3/4 oz basil (this is the size container they've got at the store, I would say it's a small handful?)
  • 2 small handfuls spinach
  • 2 handfuls chopped almonds
  • 1.5 T olive oil
  • 1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked then finely chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
  • tomatoes - I used 5 cherry tomatoes for my bowl


Boiling the pasta and blanching the basil and spinach
Start your pasta water in a covered pot over high heat.  When it comes to a boil add the pasta and give it a stir right away so it doesn't stick.  Then put your basil leaves and spinach in a small mesh strainer and dip it into the boiling pasta water.  Supposedly this prevents the pesto from oxidizing later, it probably also makes it easier to pulverize.  I also like that it flavors the pasta water with basil.
Adding almonds

Then dump the blanched basil and spinach into a container that works with your immersion blender.  Our immersion blender comes with a blending cup, but I don't know if it's heat-proof so I use my 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup.  Add the almonds, olive oil, salt and parmesan and blend until smooth.

Whiz it up
You can also make this into creamy pesto sauce by adding some sort of cheese -- cottage cheese, little wedges of Laughing Cow, etc. 

Smooth finished product.
When your pasta is done, you can either let each person put their own pesto and bacon chunks on or mix it into the entire batch.

Add the tomatoes and a sprinkle of Parmesan on top if you like.  I used a little less pasta in my bowl and add some chopped raw mushrooms.  


Bacon makes everything better!

Husband Jeff and Sonny D don't eat tomatoes, so I only added them to my own bowl rather than the whole batch.  This is already really close to the way I make pesto for myself, I add tomatoes to my bowl because it's so perfect with pesto and sometimes I'll add mushrooms if I've got them.  Adding bacon adds that little extra sumthin' that makes it special.

Husband Jeff likes pesto occasionally, and this was the first batch of the summer, so he was pretty receptive.  He even commented that the pesto itself was really good, and of course adding bacon made it even better.  

Aside from avocados, pesto is the only green food Sunny D will eat, and he loves it. I felt only slightly bad for hiding spinach in this, but you really can't tell it's there. 

Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) gmail.com. It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!