Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Homemade Pasta with Lemon & Parsley Pesto Sauce

It’s summertime and the food is easy. But if you’re like me, right about now at the end of the July you are already starting to feel a little bit of grill burnout. As much as I look forward to the lightly charred taste of a well-marinated chicken fresh off the grates, or the breezy simplicity of kicking back on the patio with some hamburgers and hotdogs, sometimes I crave the lighter, fresher tastes of the season.

Late summer offers some of the best fresh fruits and vegetables available all year. Local farmers’ markets and backyard gardens are beginning to show off juicy red tomatoes, sweet stone fruits, and fragrant herbs that speak to every sense. Such pure ingredients allow for the creation of simple dishes with big flavors that come naturally. It’s the lazy season, after all; you might as well let nature do all the work.

Enter: fresh pasta. It’s the perfect canvas for displaying fresh summertime flavors. In this dish, I combine homemade spaghetti with a light lemon and parsley pesto sauce that’s finished with creamy mascarpone cheese. Parsley pesto is very similar to the traditional basil version we all know but with a welcome, slightly subdued change of flavor. Diced tomato, crumbled feta cheese, toasted pine nuts, and toasted buttery breadcrumbs seasoned with parsley and lemon zest add a Mediterranean vibe with “yum” written all over it.

Except for making the pasta, this dish requires minimal work. Of course, you can make this recipe even easier with dry pasta and a jar of pesto sauce, but when a recipe is this simple, it’s worth it to put in the extra effort. I know that making fresh pasta is not for everyone. I get it—pasta is supposed to be a quick and easy thing—and believe me, I do not break out the pasta machine every time I want a bowl of macaroni. But fresh pasta is much lighter and more delicate than dry. Make the pasta and the pesto from scratch (or—shh—buy fresh). You will taste the difference.

It’s rare for me to go an entire month without a single post on Cook’s Book. In three years, I believe it’s only been once. I just made it this month! Part of the reason is that I am cooking up something new and exciting that will be launching soon. Keep an eye out for an announcement!

Pasta with Lemon & Parsley Pesto
With mascarpone cheese, tomato, feta, pine nuts, & toasted breadcrumbs
Yield: 4 Servings
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 cup toasted pine nuts, divided
- Parsley pesto (recipe follows)
- ½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
- Dry or homemade pasta, any shape (recipe follows)
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1) In a medium bowl, mix the breadcrumb, lemon zest, and parsley until well combined. Add the butter to a medium skillet over medium-low heat and melt. Stir in the breadcrumb mixture and toast, stirring often, until dry and evenly browned, about 8 minutes. Spread out on a tray or plate and set aside to cool.
2) In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta to al dente (remember, fresh pasta cooks much quicker than dry.) In the meantime, add the parsley pesto to a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add the lemon juice and mascarpone cheese, mixing until all are well incorporated. Keep warm.
3) Drain and transfer the pasta to the pesto mixture and toss to coat. Transfer the pasta to individual bowls and garnish with diced tomato, feta cheese, pine nuts, and toasted breadcrumbs.
Parsley Pesto
- 2 cups fresh parsley leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup of the toasted pine nuts
- ½ cup grated parmigiano reggiano
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
• In a food processor, add the parsley, garlic, pine nuts, and parmigiano and pulse until finely chopped. Add the extra virgin olive oil in a stream and continue to pulse until the mixture is well blended. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
- 1 pound all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- Pinch of salt
- 4 eggs
- 2 ounces of water
• In an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix together the salt and flour. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the eggs and water. Mix on medium-low speed until a ball of dough forms; the dough should be smooth and elastic and should not stick to the sides of the bowl. Add additional flour and/or water as needed. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gather into a ball. Cover and let relax at room temperature for at least an hour. Roll out the pasta by hand or with an electric pasta roller and cut into desired thickness (spaghetti, fettuccine, etc.). Freeze or refrigerate if not using immediately.