Friday, March 19, 2010

Pasta with Asparagus, Tomatoes and Citrus Basil Pesto

If you are an herb grower, you probably have a hard time achieving your ultimate basil plant. Some people can do it, like my sister Mallory. Some people can't, like me.

Mallory had the most lovely basil plant outside her front door last summer. On more than one occasion, I instructed different sisters to sneak up Mal's walkway, snip a few stems and steal Mallory's beautiful basil for me. It has died now, but sister-stealing is something that ran rampant in my family when I was growing up.

My older sister Megan had lots of cute clothes when she was a teenager. And I wanted to use them all the time. And she never let me. So I resorted to stealing them. One day, I came home from work for lunch and Megan was there. She noticed the bright green shirt I was wearing and wasn't pleased. We got in a fight, said some colorful words to each other and then she left. And then I marched down to her closet, took handfuls of hangers and put them in my car. I then drove to the second-hand store, sold them and bought myself lunch with the proceeds. It was probably the most delicious lunch I have ever had.

Months later, I told my dad of my stealing, selling sins and instead of scolding me, he laughed his head off, as he should. It was quite brilliant on my part.

This basil wasn't stolen from one of my sisters, it was purchased at Sunflower Market. Sunflower sells basil plants and bags of fresh basil. And they are lovely, big, fragrant leaves. Leaves that release the essence of their flavor when pulverized. They pair up with orange zest, fresh garlic and walnuts to make the most delicious, versatile sauce, one that you and your family will annihilate.

1 lb small pasta, which ever shape you prefer (I used rigatoni)
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces, ends discarded
1 8 oz carton grape tomatoes, halved
3 cups lightly-packed fresh basil leaves
2 garlic cloves
1 orange, zested
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
3/4 cup toasted walnuts
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
A few grinds black pepper
3/4 cup - 1 cup olive oil, depending on the consistency you want

In a large pot of boiling salted water, boil pasta until al dente. Drain well and pour into a serving bowl. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and toss. Cover with a towel and set aside, but being sure to toss occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking.

In a large bowl, add ice cubes and water, making a water bath. Set aside. Refill the large pasta pot with water and set over high heat. Once boiling, add asparagus. Boil for 1-2 minutes, or until the pasta is slightly tender and bright green. With a slotted spoon transfer asparagus pieces into the prepared water bath. Be sure all pieces are submerged. Once asparagus is cooled, transfer asparagus to cooked pasta in the serving bowl. Add halved tomatoes.

In the bowl of a food processor, add basil, garlic, orange zest, Parmesan cheese, walnuts, salt and pepper. Process until basil is finely minced. While the machine is running, slowly stream in olive oil until desired consistency is achieved. Immediately toss with cooked pasta, asparagus and tomatoes. Garnish with additional grated Parmesan cheese if desired. Serve immediately.

Yields 6 servings. 6 big servings.

Rookie's Notes: Basil is nearly perfect. Nearly because it discolors easily. So this isn't a make-ahead meal. It will taste the same if you do, but it won't look the same. If you insist upon making this ahead of time, make the pesto, transfer it into a small bowl, pour a little olive oil on top to cover it and then leave it on the counter until you are ready to serve. Why leave it on the counter? If you put it in the fridge, it will be cold and be hard to toss with the pasta.

Look, it's me.


Sparks said...

You may have sold my clothes, but I fake-asked you to prom.

Or at least that's what I'm told.

rookie cookie said...

@Sparks - At least that is what you were told? Please! You count that as one of your most shining moments in your life dedicated to ruining mine.

Shanicherie said...

You have GOT to put up more stories like this. I LOVE reading these since I didn't really have any sibling experiences. You Peterson chicks are too funny! And this pasta looks SO GOOD!

OH PS...I have one more question for you. What is the difference between regular flour and cake flour? I can't just use regular (for the buttermilk biscuits)?

Kalli Ko said...

Ah sisters...

I used to steal my sister's clothes, wear them, and try and hang them back in her closet before she noticed. Except she always did.

Fail Kalli.

[Morgan] said...

you, not the food.

Krista ... said...

oh my wow. this pasta is at the top of the recipe stack for summer meals.

sheena said...

1. I finally got basil to my window, but only in the summer because my house is old and drafty and freezing and basil is sensitive. But try it!
2. I really love the story of you stealing your sister's clothes (sorry to said sister)
3. I love that there is orange zest in this....I really need this now.
4. Love the look of the blog!!

Hayley said...

I love fresh basil, but have never been able to grow my own.

This year for my b-day my husband bought me an aero garden, and it's pretty amazing. I have fresh basil up to my ears, along with cilantro, parsley, and sage. Yum.

You should look into one.

This looks delicious, and I must try it this week! YUM!

Bridget said...

that looks delicious.

Cheryl Fowers said...

I think I remember that, but there were so many run in's with your sisters! It was AWESOME! Speaking of which remember that time I ran my head into your bulletin board after we tried to scare Kaitlyn on a sleepover. My head was bleeding all over your new comforter and you ripped off your pants and put them on my head? All that because we tried to scare her. Oh I wish I had sisters!

heather said...

that pasta looks wonderful. and i HATE sister stealing! as the older sister, i was usually the victim. when you're the 1st one to get a job, you're the 1st one to be able to buy your own clothes. i kinda hope my next kid is a boy so i don't have to deal with this problem.

Jordan and Jandee said...

This looks amazing -- I am obsessed with basil as well and have been growing a couple mini plants in the kitchen that may be donating their leaves for this one!

Joanna said...

This was delicious and a huge hit with my family. My husband had SECONDS of a vegetarian meal (WOW) and my oldest son actually ate a tomato and liked it...I shed a tear, I truly did. Thanks!

rookie cookie said...

@Joanna - I laughed out loud when I read "...I shed a tear". I would have done the same thing. Glad to hear it was a hit.

juliamaloy said...

I just found your blog...everything looks awesome and I'm excited to try this recipe! It's on the menu for Monday night.
Thanks and I look forward to browsing more!
julia from austin tx

rookie cookie said...

@juliamaloy - Thank you for your kind words and WELCOME!

juliamaloy said...

we had this earlier this week and it was a huge hit! my almost two year old was crazy about it...i have to admit i cheated and bought pesto from Central Market, but still good. we usually make a pasta like this with brocolli, but i'm definitely going to stick to asparagus from now on. and i never would have tried tomatoes wo your recipe...they were great! thx so much! :)