Sunday, May 3, 2009

Almond and Sun Dried Tomato Basil Pesto Recipe

I thought I had invented something really big. I was in Switzerland over the winter, and wanted to make a spread for a bruschetta type thing, or a filling for sandwiches. I often use walnuts as a base for spready things, so I thought I'd change it up a bit with almonds, and add some sun dried tomatoes and basil, a little parsley, and some garlic. As a spread it was good, if unremarkable, but later, and in need of an easy dinner, I was surprised at its balance when I used it as a pesto on penne pasta. The garlic and herbs warmed on the pasta and released their flavors; the almonds and olive oil were so rich it was as if I had added cheese; and the tomatoes, well, the tomatoes rounded everything out to pasta sauce perfection.

The point of pesto genovese is the basil, and excepting when I devoured this dish nightly in Genoa, its birthplace, where it is combined with green beans and potatoes, I feel it lacks tomatoes. My concoction was perfect! I had suddenly become Italian! How could the world not know about this decadent tomato-basil-almond pesto? I wanted to run straight out of the apartment building and to the neighboring mountains and shout so loud those in the Italian alps would hear.

But not wanting to claim the rights to this perfect dish prematurely, I looked up the ingredients online, and of course, it has existed beyond those alps for years. Pesto Garganico, is its name, and it reportedly hails from the Gargano region of Puglia. No matter. I am happy those smart Italians invented it, and happy that by past life regression, or e.s.p., or simply by combining ingredients that grow together, I was able to recreate it.

My father turned seventy-three last Sunday, and I made him my original copy of this pesto (complete with fresh oregano from the garden), as an appetizer before his birthday dinner. Happy birthday, Baba. Here's to thirty more.

Almond and Sun Dried Tomato Basil Pesto

2 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 cups of almonds
2 1/2 cups of sun dried tomatoes
the leaves from 4 large stalks of basil
a handful of flat leaf parsley leaves
the leaves from 2 stalks of oregano
bit of crushed red pepper, to taste
1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

In a food processor, chop the garlic into small bits. Add the almonds, and process until the almonds are completely chopped. Add the sun dried tomatoes, the herbs, and the hot pepper (if using) and blend well. Pour the olive oil into the bowl while the machine is running, and mix until a smooth paste forms. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread on toasted slices of baguette, and top with parsley or basil leaves.

And/or, use as a pasta sauce on penne (or other hearty, formed pasta). You might need to warm the pesto in a small pan with a little of the pasta's cooking liquid before incorporating it with the pasta.

I even sprinkled some of this pesto into a spinach omelette, and it was delicious. Be creative.

This recipe makes a lot of pesto. Halve it if you don't want leftovers, or freeze it, or make a lot of pasta!


Anonymous said...

Hi Banu:
What a wonderful way to send me your love..I love you too, unconditionally!! Hope we can be together for another thirty years. As you know my plan is to live forever. So far so good. And as you say: age is mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter!!

elif said...

i was so happy to share this deliciousness with my sister and all the rest of my wonderful family. thanks for a great recipe, banu!