the BEST(o) pesto

I don’t mean to be cheesey (unless we’re talking quality parmesan), but is my pesto the besto? You bet. Not to be a smarty-pants, but when culinary perfection happens on accident, me-oh-my, it must be shared!

The Five-Ingredient Meal of All Time… (or at least so far in our kitchen)

I wasn’t trying to make pesto, let alone memorable pesto. I came home Friday afternoon, wiped out from the most exhausting group of third graders I never hoped to encounter. After throwing my bag on the floor and plopping on the couch, I practically dozed off until the hubby arrived home 30 minutes later. This is when I realized two—no, make that three–disheartening things: 1. I was too sleepy to cook 2. we were pretty much out of fresh groceries and 3. I was really hungry.

A survey of the fridge confirmed these things: 1/4 bag of baby arugula, orange juice, yogurt, assorted nuts, a small block of parmesan-reggiano, and some frighteningly aged leftovers.

I don’t completely understand how, but my random assortment of ingredients made for one of the best sauces I have enjoyed anywhere. So I’m just going to tell you exactly what I did, in hopes that you (and I) can replicate this arugula wonder. Note: If you’re using a large food processor, you can add everything at once—adding the oils gradually.

Lindsey’s Rocket Pesto

Into my mini food processor, combined…

  • about a half-cup of baby arugula with almost a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
  • whirrr
  • then one clove of garlic and a little more baby arugula and just enough pure olive oil to dampen the mixture, along with about a half-teaspoon of sea salt and a bit of pepper
  • whirrr
  • then about a quarter-cup toasted walnut pieces and the rest of the arugula
  • whirrr
  • then two BIG hunks of parmesan-reggiano, and I mean, really, promise you’ll go for the special parmesan
  • whirrr
  • then add a little more extra-virgin olive oil, just enough to make it really moist (switched between extra-virgin and pure olive oil so the extra-virgin didn’t overpower the entire flavor)

Sounds basic enough, and I’ve enjoyed tasty pestos in restaurants. But this was silky. I mean silky and rich. And here’s what I think made it all the better… (This made about one and a half cups of arugula pesto, which goes far with the method below)

When I boiled my pasta (just to al dente, a few minutes shy of recommended cooking time) in slightly salted water, I saved about one cup of the starchy water at the end of cooking. After returning my drained pasta to the hot pasta pot, I scooped in the amount of pesto I wanted for my personal serving (around a tablespoon). Then I drizzled in some reserved pasta water, which made the consistency unbelievably creamy. I think the huge hunks of cheese also contributed to the texture 🙂

This pesto is thick, not runny like some restaurant pestos. I added just enough oil (predominantly the less-intense Pure olive oil) for smoothness, but not for swimming. Who wants a pool on their plate? I think the magic also happened in allowing the starchy water to melt the pesto into the hot pasta, vs. adding more and more and more  oil  until the flavor of the pesto is drowned out. (I use whole-wheat pasta 95% of the time, but here is a tasty place for the alternative texture of semolina pasta).

Even some of my favorite pestos can have a gritty texture—which is often their single downfall. But not this little sensation. That’s what shocked me about this 8 minute meal. I didn’t really have any expectations. I was hungry and in the mood for an indulgent bowl of pasta. And some quality fridge-scraps produced this.

As I said, I don’t know why the texture and flavor was so superior to any other pesto I have had, but I think the amount (& quality) of parmesan, in addition to incorporating a little pasta water, made a difference.

broccoli pesto

I made this broccoli pesto two weeks ago. It had hazelnuts and mint and lots of lemon, and sounded fantastic from reading about it in my most recent Vegetarian Times magazine. I tossed it with goat cheese and, though flavorful, it lacked excitement. This arugula (less-effort) pesto was all the more simple and satisfying.

arugula pesto. make it today!

Should I sing the 5 ingredient-8 minute refrain?? Who says good, no fabulous, food needs to be expensive or timely or challenging to make? Not me.

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Filed under budget, dinners, lickety-quick

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