Perfect Pesto for Summertime Pasta


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Wolfgang PuckOne of my favorite things about pesto is that, easy as it is to make, it provides a platform for almost endless variations. I like to add other ingredients when I toss the pesto with the pasta. In the recipe that follows, for example, I include slivers of sun-dried tomato, which contribute bright contrasting color and hints of sweet flavor, and arugula leaves, which add yet another dimension with their pleasantly bitter taste.

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  • 1/4 C. pine nuts
  • 1 lb. uncooked linguine, fettuccine, or other pasta strands
  • 24 whole fresh basil leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/3 C. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 C. drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, cut into thin julienne strips
  • 8 oz. baby arugula leaves
  • 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 C. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

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Put the pine nuts in a small, dry skillet. Place the skillet over low heat and cook the pine nuts, stirring frequently, until they darken slightly in color, 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately transfer the pine nuts to a small dish or plate and set them aside to cool. Bring a large pot of salted water to a full rolling boil. Add the linguine and cook it until al dente, tender but still chewy, following the manufacturer's suggested cooking time.

While the pasta is cooking, make the pesto: In a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade, or a blender, combine the basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and salt. Process, or blend on high speed, until smoothly pureed, stopping several times as necessary to scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. As soon as the pasta is done cooking, drain it, reserving 1 C. of its cooking water. Transfer the drained pasta to a mixing bowl. Add the pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, arugula leaves and balsamic vinegar.

Toss well, adding just enough of the reserved cooking water while you toss to help the pesto coat the pasta thoroughly and evenly. With pasta serving spoons, transfer the linguine to individual large, shallow serving bowls, making sure that each serving gets a fair share of the sun-dried tomatoes and arugula leaves. Serve immediately, passing freshly grated Parmesan cheese for each person to add to taste.

Yield: 6 servings

(Chef Wolfgang Puck's new TV series, "Wolfgang Puck's Cooking Class," airs Sundays and Wednesdays on the Food Network. Write Wolfgang Puck in care of Tribune Media Services Inc., 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY. 14207.)



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