What's for Dinner: Josephine's Deconstructed Pesto Salad

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Josephine's Deconstructed Pesto Salad

Don't you love it when someone else does the hard work but you somehow still get the glory? Such was the case with this super-fresh summer pasta salad, which my good friend Josephine brought to Son No. 3's graduation party and everyone else assumed came from my kitchen. If only!

Because it was a hot night, she decided to "deconstruct" the pesto by tossing the ingredients instead of processing them into a sauce. The recipe, which she found on the Web, easily can be doubled for a party (or teenage boys), and works as either an entree or side dish. I tossed some shredded chicken into the leftovers for a protein boost.

  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 pound dried fusilli (spiral) pasta
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces coarsely grated or shaved Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 cups (about 2 1/2 ounces) packed sweet basil leaves or your favorite basil variety, cut into 1/2-inch-wide chiffonade (to yield about 1 1/2 cups)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a 10-inch skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden, about 5 minutes. Pour onto a plate and set aside to cool. When the water boils, add pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente.

While pasta is cooking, gently heat the olive oil and sliced garlic over low heat in the same skillet used for the nuts, stirring frequently, until garlic starts to turn golden, 4 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

When the pasta is done, scoop out 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and reserve. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Pour the garlic and olive oil over the hot pasta and toss. Pour reserved pasta water into the skillet, swirl it around, and pour it over the pasta. Toss well. Add the pine nuts and cheese and toss again until thoroughly mixed.

Transfer to a serving bowl and let cool for 5 minutes. Then, just before serving, toss in the basil. Pass extra cheese around with a grater for those who want more.

Serves 6.

-- Josephine Coletti, Ben Avon


First Published July 18, 2012 4:00 AM


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