Over a lifetime, Cousin Martin and I have traveled to many faraway places together. In Australia, I watched him eat a witchetty grub in an Andrew Zimmern-like moment that, for me, sealed his reputation as an omnivore. So when I suggested we make pesto a couple of weeks ago, and he informed me he doesn't like garlic, I was stunned. My first thought: how did I not know? My second thought: roast the garlic! The flavor of raw garlic can be harsh, but slow cooking mellows and sweetens the garlic, so that's what we did. Then, we added some roasted red peppers, also sweet, and fruity extra virgin olive oil. The pesto, which I tossed with pasta and extra parmesan cheese, almost won my cousin over. Not quite, but almost. My husband Ted and I happily polished off every leftover mouthful.
Pasta with roasted garlic and red pepper pesto
Makes 1-1/2 cups of pesto; serves 6 with pasta.
For the pesto:
3 heads garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
4 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 + 2 tsp cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3/4 cup roasted red peppers (from a jar)
1/8 tsp hot red pepper flakes
For the pasta:
1 lb any shape dried pasta
6 or more fresh basil leaves, for garnish (optional)
Extra grated parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Slice off the top 1/4 of each head of garlic to expose the tips of the cloves. Set the garlic heads on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with 2 tsp of olive oil, salt and pepper, and seal the foil packet. Place it on a baking sheet, and bake for 1-1/2 hours. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool. (You can do this days in advance, and store in the refrigerator.)
When the garlic is cool, squeeze the cloves out directly into the food processor. Add the pine nuts, and pulse several times to chop the nuts. In batches, add the basil leaves, pulsing enough to make room for more until all are incorporated.
Toss in the salt, and chop until the basil is very fine. Then, with the machine running, add the remaining 1/2 cup of oil slowly, through the feed tube. When all of the oil is in, add the cheese, red peppers and hot pepper flakes, and pulse a few times to chop the red peppers.
At this point you can freeze the pesto, or refrigerate it for up to 2 weeks in a container with an airtight lid.
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large stock pot. Add the pasta, and cook according to package directions depending on the size and shape you've selected.
Toss the pasta with as much of the pesto as you need; reserve the remaining pesto for another time. To serve, julienne or shred the basil, and top each serving with plenty of basil and grated parmesan cheese.
More garlicky pesto recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Pasta with kale pesto, shrimp and tomato
Pasta with peas and parsley-walnut pesto
Spicy pesto soba with chicken and snow peas
Penne with roasted red pepper pesto
Turkey pesto meatball sliders
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Creamy pesto pasta, from She Wears Many Hats
Beet pesto pasta, from Eat Live Run
Asparagus pesto with pasta, from Simply Recipes
Basil pesto with lemon, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Edamame, mint and arugula pesto pasta, from Savory Simple
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