Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Bookmark Project: Creamy Basil Pasta

Shopping for produce in the summer months is a highly rewarding activity. Instead of frowning at shrink-wrapped fruits, wrinkling my nose at limp sickly veggies and sighing at the far-away places that all the stuff is shipped from, in summer I am usually squealing with delight at the fresh local produce that always results in lucky "finds".

On one recent trip, we came home carrying an armload of basil, quite literally. It was bigger than most bouquets I have seen- I had no idea basil could grow that big or have stems that thick. I bought the bunch quite greedily and readily, and plunged it into a vase when I got home, and then bit my lip and said, uh oh. Now I had to think of something to make with all that basil. And I had to think fast, because the poor basil leaves were wilting by the minute in the merciless heat.

My bookmark folder came to the rescue- it contained a recipe involving fresh basil that came highly recommended. My dear friend Cathy told me about this recipe exactly one year ago and I dutifully bookmarked it. The weeks went by, basil went out of season and the bookmark waited patiently for the next summer to arrive. Now, by some propitious alignment of the celestial bodies, I finally had all the ingredients on hand- fresh tomatoes, fragrant basil, raw cashews and whole wheat linguini.

Once these few ingredients are sitting on the kitchen counter, you are only minutes away from a fantastic meal. The pasta boils away, the sauce take a spin in the food processor and a quick simmer with fried garlic, and that's that- dinner is served!

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I followed the recipe closely, only adding an extra fresh tomato and 2 tablespoons of pasta sauce instead of the tomato paste because that's what I had on hand. I used white wine to thin down the sauce a little. I've been amazed by Lolo of Vegan Yum Yum before (remember the knit cupcakes?) but now I'm convinced of her brilliance. Her Super Quick Tomato Basil Cream Pasta is super in all kinds of other ways, being super rich and super creamy and super vegan, not to mention super duper yummy ;) Promise me you will try this recipe. Cathy, I owe you one!

I used a handful of fresh basil leaves for that pasta, and still had, oh, about an armful left! V and I spent the afternoon making pesto, filling it into little tubs and stacking them in the freezer. A bit of research led me to the Everyday Food site and this pesto recipe designed specially for the freezer. I liked the idea of blanching the basil very briefly in boiling water to preserve the color. It also wilted the basil and made it easier to pack into the food processor. Freezer pesto is made without parmesan- that can be added later after thawing, if desired. We followed the recipe as directed to make a big batch of pesto.

We did use pine nuts in this recipe, and they were fine, but these days, I seem to be reading of that weird pine nut mouth thing everywhere, so I'm going to think twice about eating them from now on.

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I must say having my own stash of pesto in the freezer makes me feel very smug and domestic goddess-y! I simply thaw a tub overnight in the refrigerator and it is fresh and tasty even when thawed. We have been using it for pesto pasta salad, as a sandwich spread and simply slathered on good toast.

This celebration of fragrant basil is off to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Haalo this week.

I'll leave you with a picture of our intrepid hiker Dale. This dog won't play in the dog run, looks annoyed if you ask him to "fetch" and naps the whole time he is at home, BUT he absolutely loves to walk. He can hike for hours and is surprisingly sure-footed (which, of course, is easier if you have four feet). On Saturday, we popped over next door to lllinois and Dale spent all morning leading us through Pere Marquette state park.
Dale_hike


I'll be back with my first attempt at an Argentinean recipe (perhaps the only Argentinean thing a vegetarian can eat?!). See you then.

36 comments:

  1. Nupur, I have never tried basil in my cooking. How does it taste?
    The pasta looks delicious!

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  2. Sounds super yummy! And lol at the 'domestic goddess-y' feeling..I love that feeling!

    As for the Argentinean recipe-are you referring to empanadas? If yes- that is such a co-incidence- I have been enjoying eating and plotting the making of veggie empanadas. I have been also planning to make a panner burji filled empanada..Now, I need to actually make them..lol

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  3. I meant paneer not panner..:)

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  4. lovely recipe and definitely and eye opener that pine nut thing...

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  5. I just love basil.. i could probably eat a plateful of pasta with just olive oil, black pepper & basil! This is soooo beautiful. I have 4 Teensy plants growing at home, no where near to the size we buy from outside.. but even a few leaves added just changes everything...

    As for argentinian, I posted Chimichurri & loved every bit of it, but not on meat:-)

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  6. Nupur, your bookmarked projects are starting this ripple effect, leading other people to bookmark the same...:)
    Such a lovely summer dinner...

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  7. Yummy! When I buy basil, other than the pesto and using it for pasta, I make thai green curry.. it is so good!

    Anushri

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  8. Nupur, I'm loving this bookmark series of yours! I have half a mind to steal your idea when I post dishes inspired by others' recipes- I too have tons and tons of recipes, some bookmarked as early as 2006. I lost count after the first 500 or so.:D
    I love basil and just cannot get enough of it. That pasta dish of yours look so bright and vibrant.
    I did not know that pesto could be frozen. (I'm thinking of the raw/uncooked garlic here.) I rarely use pine nuts when I make pesto. Walnuts, or even almonds seem to work well for me. Sometimes I also toss in some sun-dried tomatoes for a slightly different taste.

    Your pesto looks fantastic and I can imagine how good it tasted too- you have every reason to be pleased, you domestic goddess.:)
    Just curious- does it retain its lovely green color after freezing-thawing?

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  9. What a perfect way to use that bouquet of basil! I also love keeping pesto in the freezer... that fresh taste is such a breath of fresh air in the winter months.

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  10. I tried this tonite and it was so good! Okay, I had the 'what to make for dinner' feeling and popped in at One Hot Stove and had the answer right here! Incidently I also had all the ingredients at hand, including the basil. It tasted so good even my seven yr old loved it. Yes, he is one big foodie.
    Dale looks triumphant at finishing his hiking, I'm sure he spent the rest of the day resting on his fav blankets:)

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  11. I made a huge amount of pesto today too (it;'s the season!). I used pine nuts, but have used cashews in the past as I tend to have those around more often. Last year I had weird-metallic-bitter-mouth for THREE months straight, and it was scary and horrible. But it wasn't related at all to pine nuts, as I hadn't eaten any in a long time. I never did figure it out, but eventually it went away with some help from my acupuncturist and an ENT. Pine nuts were one thing I investigated though, and I'm a bit wary of them now, so I know what you mean.

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  12. Hey Domestic Goddess :-)

    That sure is a creamy pasta. I have to pay through my nose for a small bunch that will wilt in a day anyway!

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  13. I love flavor of basil in pastas..definitely a healthy touch..

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  14. The Pasta looks delicious will try it this weekend.
    I really love that lovely pooch of yours. Labs are very atheletic and love the outdoors. I guess I do not have to tell you that!

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  15. I adore basil, pasta sounds delicious!

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  16. Mona- Basil has a unique taste; I'm not sure how to describe it expect to say that it is fresh and pleasant. It is a widely available herb, and I definitely recommend trying it, maybe in a simple pasta dish where its flavor comes through.

    Lavanya- Empanadas are part of it, yes :) I am going to try my hand at making some tonight. Your paneer fusion ones certainly sound very tasty!

    Smita- yes, I wonder what's causing the pine nut effect...very strange.

    Soma- I did see the chimichurri sauce you posted and it looks great, I'll be attempting to make some tonight.
    I love basil too, but tend to use it only in these few summer months.

    Manasi- In the food blog world, there's always that ripple effect, and certain recipes spread like wildfire :) that's how we share the love!

    Anushri- Thank you for mentioning Thai green curry, I must make that while fresh herbs are in season!

    TBC- Well, what are you waiting for, go on and start your own bookmark project. I'd love to see what hidden treasures you find in your bookmarks! If I remember correctly, you used to feature regular posts of recipes tried from other blogs.
    Yes, pesto can be frozen quite easily and the garlic does not seem to be a problem. It did retain its green color after thawing; this might be because I blanched the basil (I should do a controlled experiment next time).
    I just bookmarked a sun-dried tomato pesto :) and hope to make that soon!

    Patsyk- I agree, it is going to be a treat in the winter months!

    Namita- That was QUICK :) I'm so glad you tried it, and glad you and your kiddo enjoyed it!
    Yes, Dale did catch up on nap-time the minute we got home. He started to nod off right in the car.

    Diane- That sounds perfectly horrible to have the bitter mouth thing for three months! What on earth is causing it? I'm glad it went away eventually, although three months is an awfully long time.

    Raaga- I have a feeling it would grow very well, if you can find some seeds for it and plant it yourself. I took some herb seeds for Nandita, next time I'll bring you some.

    Prathibha- I love it too.

    Reva- That's what amazes me, Dale is not all-round athletic, just likes to walk. Dale wants me to tell you that he really really loves you too :)

    Parita- It tasted fantastic too!

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  17. Lovely post! Your pasta looks yummy!I love making a super-chunky pesto with fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, chilli flakes, salt and pepper, and pulsing these in a food processor along with a handful of almonds. Just toss this with hot pasta (no need to cook the sauce) along with some cheese, and a few olives if you like it, and it's a delicious, easy meal.
    And tell Dale - I want to know what the secret is of his looking younger every time I see a photo of him!!
    Curious to see what the Argentinian veggie dish will be - I visited Buenos Aires a few years back, and while I loved the place, it was a nightmare food-wise for a vegetarian!

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  18. Hi Nupur,

    dropped by your blog after a long time and really enjoying reading about all your recipes..

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  19. Nupur, the pasta looks so creamy... my pesto making is overdue :)

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  20. Hi Nupur, I don't know how I missed your comeback.:-) welcome back. Loved reading through your posts, especially liked the bookmarked ones. Thanks for the Everyday freezer pesto recipe, I have a basil plant thats been waiting to be harvested and I'm going to make this pesto for the chilly months.

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  21. Great recipe. i am going to definitely give this a try,since I have a bunch of pasta growing in my pot.Good to know of the pine mouth problem.I am not a big fan of pinenuts but I was considering making pesto with the boatload of basil i have but now i wont.Do you know of an alternative to pinenuts in pesto?

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  22. The pasta sounds great, bookmarked here, too. Dale looks muchly happy at Pere Marquette, isn't it a beautiful park. xxoo

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  23. There's nothing like the fragrance of basil, is there-- I can sit next to it and inhale it for hours, it's so intoxicating :)
    The linguine looks tremendously appetizing-- I'd love nothing more than a plate of that right now. And Dale reminds me a lot of Lucy-- she loves to walk too, but refuses to play fetch. And if my other dogs are playing, she likes to stop them :)We call her the "fun police."
    Thanks for the feedback on the udad dal. So glad you liked it.

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  24. Delicious!Pesto is best way to use the fresh herbs considering how quickly it can spoil.

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  25. That pasta sue looks mouth watering! I have never tried pesto :(
    time i did and ur recipe sounds perfect!
    Dale looks so ready- to-hike another 10 miles!!! XO!!!

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  26. love that plate of pasta....have bookmarked this one!!

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  27. Kamini- Your pasta sounds wonderful! I'm going to try it in the next few days, so I'll let you know how it turns out!
    Dale's secret is "don't worry, be happy, nap at least 20 hours each day" :D

    Gauri Gharpure- I'm very glad to hear that :)

    Mandira- Do it quick or summer will be over :)

    Pavani- I'm glad to see you here! I'm planning to make something for your peanut event :)

    superartsy/Supriya- People use all other nuts in place of pine nuts: walnuts are the most common while almonds or cashews can also be used.

    Alanna- It is a beautiful park, and it was the perfect day to be walking through it! Alanna, I swear you must try this pasta, it is very good :D

    Vaishali- I agree, basil has the most glorious fragrance- and this pasta really showcases it.
    We must get Dale and Lucy together, they can not play fetch together!!

    Yasmeen- yes, it was delicious.

    Manasi- Pesto is tasty and versatile, definitely worth trying. Yes, Dale could easily have hiked more but we humans were tired ;)

    Arundati- I think you'll love it- do give it a try sometime.

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  28. I have to be honest...my mouth watered when i looked at the pasta. Wow..i had never heard of that incident with the pine-nuts, but i usually do not buy them....i have an addiction to nuts and i can eat a bag or a box of them..and keep going back till i have managed to devour the whole thing, in one day. Not a joke here....i have done this so many times, i now buy single servings for any cooking preparations!!...waiting for the recipe from Argentina :)

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  29. And now I am craving pasta! I can see why you bookmarked this recipe. Gorgeous photos too!

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  30. absolutely delicious...all my fave flavours in that plate!!I make something similar but that uses cream - love this non cream version even better!!
    great info on the pine nuts; i use walnuts in my pesto.

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  31. Hi Nupur! I haven't had any local basil yet this summer, but can't wait to eat this again! I'm so glad you tried it - I just love it! By the way - I skipped the tomato paste as well. I never heard of that pine nut problem before! Maybe I'll just use walnuts or pecans for pesto in the future.

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  32. Rajitha- I love snacking on nuts too, but now that I store them in the freezer, they are out of sight (and frozen solid) so there is less of a chance of me eating them up.

    Lisa- This cashew pasta sauce is completely tasty- give it a try!

    Aquadaze- That is the best part of this recipe, making something so tasty and creamy without using any cream.

    Cathy- I'm hoping to make this a few more times before basil season is over!

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  33. yeah! even i have tried out this recipe it came out perfect!

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  34. This pasta looks promising. I'm always up for anything that can be cooked up quickly without compromising on taste. :)
    And yes, I agree about Lolo being brilliant.

    Btw, I've taken a leaf out your bookmark project and am desperately trying to work my way through mine.

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  35. Wafah- It is really a great recipe!

    Aparna- I did see your posts, baking through your bookmarks. It is fun, isn't it?
    This pasta is definitely worth a try, especially since you have access to great cashews where you live :)

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  36. I definitely saw and bookmarked this about a decade ago as well! Thanks for reminding me that I want to make it...it looks delicious.

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