Say good-bye to summer. It feels odd writing this on a truly Indian Summer day where the temperature is predicted to hit 92 degrees here in NJ. Still, it is going to dip down to the 60s by the weekend and lower at night, signaling the trees to begin dashing their leaves with color and dropping them to the ground. This summer was a busy one, with travel and other obligations, and knowing what was ahead of me back in the spring, I made a decision not to plan a vegetable garden this year. Apparently the parsley patch did not get the memo because it just grew and grew anyway, despite all the rain and neglect. And I’m glad it did because it seems like you can always use some parsley. There is a reason it’s the one herb that is never out of stock in the grocery store. It’s never too expensive and it’s not trendy. It’s a solid, dependable herb you sometimes forget can really liven up almost anything with its fresh, grassy brightness.
So, I’m harvesting what’s left of my insistent parsley patch and making some parsley pesto to enjoy on pasta today and freeze for hits of summer I can access in a pinch during the winter. Not that parsley isn’t readily available all year long, but for someone used to just snipping a few stalks in my own backyard, having some ready-made parsley pesto in the freezer will be convenient and satisfying.
We all love a classic basil pesto, but I’m here to say that once you start applying the classic Genovese pesto formula to other herbs, you will be pleasantly surprised and addicted. And then stop thinking of pesto as only for pasta, because a parsley or cilantro pesto can easily be perfectly paired with grilled chicken or fish, or dress up an offering of mundane cheese and crackers, make a bowl of olives really sing, or make a log of goat cheese more appealing. Pestos make a great condiment for sandwiches, and an add-in for blah rice or quinoa. Put it on a frozen pizza and transform it. Pesto is great on toast or toasted crostini and makes a healthy alternative to butter. Just try a pesto, goat cheese, avocado open faced sandwich soon and you’ll know what I am talking about! (My latest favorite lunch.)
Parsley note: No offense to the curly top variety of parsley, but it’s not my choice for cooking, because of it’s bland profile. Most recipes call for the flat-leaf or Italian version of parsley for bolder, fresher flavor and sturdier leaf. Use the curly stuff to dress up a platter or create a bed for something, but when it comes to cooking, stick with the flat-leaf.
Garlic note: I love this recipe because it has NO garlic. You might think pesto MUST have garlic, but it’s not true! Actually, for years I avoided pesto in restaurants or take-out because of that raw garlic dragon breath and gut I’d end up with. When I made it, I left the garlic out and I was happy to discover that most classic pesto recipes exclude garlic, or use very little, which makes sense! The herbs and spices are the star of pesto! So, add garlic if you must, but keep it moderate and let other flavors shine.
Pasta note: I am very gluten intolerant, but I’m happy to say I’m enjoying pasta again with the discovery of this brand. Cook it slightly less than the package directions (about 8 minutes) for a nice al dente bite. It’s the only brand of GF pasta I’ve tried that doesn’t get mushy. Even my husband and daughter will eat it without looking at me sideways.
If I were you, when making this recipe, double the pesto so you’ll have leftovers. Store the pesto in a tightly sealed jar and refrigerate up to five days, or freeze in zip locks or an ice cube tray for up to 3 months. (Note: if you use an ice cube tray, once the pesto is frozen, wrap the tray tightly in plastic wrap or zip it up in a plastic bag to keep the pesto from taking on flavors from the freezer or getting freezer burned.
- prep time: 15 minutes
- yield: 6 servings pasta, 1 cup pesto
Parsley Pesto and Spaghetti
1 lb spaghetti
1/2 cup unsalted, roasted almonds
4 cups (packed) fresh, flat-leaf parsley (leaves only)
3/4 cup chopped fresh chives
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
For the pesto: Pulse almonds in a food processor until smooth. Add parsley, chives, oil and Parmesan; process until smooth. Season pesto with salt and pepper to taste.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil (4-6 quarts). (Rule of thumb for pasta water or water used for blanching vegetables: 1 heaping tablespoon per quart of water.) Add pasta, stirring occasionally, until slightly undercooked, or “al dente.” Reserve two cups of the pasta water, then drain the pasta.
toss pasta and pesto in a large bowl, adding pasta cooking liquid by the 1/4 cup until it reaches a desired “saucy” consistency. Season with salt and pepper and additional parmesan, if desired.
Do Ahead: pesto can be make 5 ays ahead and stored in a tightly sealed container. For best results and to retain color, place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pesto, even is storing in a lidded container. It’s the exposure to oxygen that will turn it brown.