What do you do when your friend O. sends you this text on a Thursday?
Lets make pesto this sunday. ive got yards of basil
I’ll tell you: You agree.
You and J. meet him in the park, and he opens a plastic shopping bag for you to sniff its contents.
“It’s really spicy-smelling,” he says. He’s right. The air around the three of you remains peppery as you walk to your apartment, like the storm clouds that follow around cartoon characters.
You use photography (it’s all you have) to worship the basil a little, because O. grew it in his garden, and it arrived replete with roots and soil just like he promised.
You chop it up with some of the usual suspects — garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, lemon zest, sea salt and pepper — and toss it with fresh tagliatelle, grape tomatoes, soppressata and slender tufts of pecorino.
That’s what you do.
Tagliatelle with Pesto, Tomatoes, and Salame
[Note: This pesto doesn’t have Parmesan in it — granted, that’s sacrilegious, but it freezes better and tastes more verdantly of homegrown basil, which were key concerns.]
1 lb. fresh tagliatelle
1/2 cup homemade pesto (see below)
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup soppressata, thinly sliced
pecorino cheese, to taste
In a medium-sized saucepan, bring 8 cups salted water to a boil. Cook tagliatelle 1-2 minutes, or until done. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water, and toss with pesto and tomatoes, adding reserved water a tablespoon at a time for smoothness. Allow to cool for a minute or two before gently folding in the soppressata. Garnish with pecorino. Serves 3-4.
Pesto (sans Parmesan)
4 loosely packed cups basil leaves
zest and juice of one lemon
1/4 cup pine nuts
2-3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Either finely mince all the ingredients together by hand, a la Heidi (totally worth it), or pulse in a food processor until just combined. Makes 2 cups.