Tomato/pesto is one of my favorite, quick sauces. It’s intensely flavorful without being overwhelming like pesto alone can be; it’s fast – especially if you have containers of tomato and pesto sauces in your freezer -which is so easy if you make big batches every time you make these sauces; and finally, it’s frigging delicious!
This has been a basic sauce since the beginning of my restaurant days in 1995 but oddly, I’ve never seen it on a restaurant menu in Italy. Yes, I know they’re purists but think about it…
Pesto is nothing more than adding lots of herbs, cheese, nuts and oil to your pasta, so it’s a natural isn’t it? I like to serve the pesto as a dollop on the pasta. This way you can grab a bit of the pesto and drag it as you twirl the pasta. The flavors literally explode in your mouth.
To make this dish, make a double or triple batch of my tomato (also known as marinara) sauce. Use what you need and freeze the rest.
Next the pesto sauce. Keep in mind that you can make a pesto from almost any fresh herb. Traditionally it’s made from basil…but I think it’s too intense and can be a bit bitter. I like to make it using one part basil and one part parsley. But you can also use tarragon (which has a licorice taste) or kale, or whatever herb you have on hand. If you don’t end up liking it…just don’t do it again.
And one more thing…
When it comes to nuts, don’t feel you have to use pine nuts – which is traditional but currently very expensive. Walnuts and hazelnuts make a great substitute…so experiment. But here’s the basic recipe.
1 cup fresh packed basil leaves
1 cup fresh packed parsley leaves
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 medium cloves garlic
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Add the nuts and garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until pasty.
Add the herbs and pulse, then add the oil slowly while the blade is turning and process until it becomes a smooth paste. If too thick…just add a bit more oil.
If using immediately add the cheese and pulse until incorporated. If freezing, add the cheese after you defrost it and ready to use.
Putting it all Together
Cook pasta according to package direction in salted, rapidly boiling water. If using dry pasta this will take about 10-15 minutes, depending on the cut of the pasta. If fresh pasta it’ll take 2-3 minutes
Drain and toss in the tomato sauce
Top with the pesto