I love a good pesto genovese as much as the next guy, but by the time late summer rolls around I've eaten enough basil pesto to choke a horse, and I'm looking to shake things up a bit to keep me from suffering pesto-palate fatigue. This dish does just that by adding peppery arugula and sweet spring peas to the pesto along with the basil. The resulting pesto looks like a traditional genovese but will surprise your taste buds with a flavor complexity that a plain old basil pesto just can't deliver.
The peas not only bring sweetness, but also the body that thickens the sauce as pine nuts would do in a traditional pesto. Blanching them first not only softens them a touch, but also helps to preserve the pesto's bright green color. I tossed the pesto with pasta here, but it would be equally good slathered on a sandwich, some crostini, or tossed with some grilled veggies or in a potato salad.
When I do make a pesto pasta I find that I like to add a few other elements to the dish for both visual and textural interest. One of my favorite things to do is what I did here, crisp up a few slices of serrano or prosciutto to crumble over the top. Some cooked sausage or shrimp would also work well, as would the addition of any number of summer veggies. Buon Apettito!
Cheers – Steve
Pasta with Arugula Basil Pesto and Crisp Serrano Ham
- 1 pound of dried pasta of your choice (we used De Cecco Gemelli)
- 1 heaping cup of fresh shelled or frozen peas
- 3 cups loosely packed arugula leaves
- 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
- 1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for the table
- 1/2 cup best quality EVOO
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2-3 ounces sliced serrano ham or prosciutto
- Fill a medium sized bowl with ice water and set it on the counter.
- Fill a large pasta pot with water, season liberally with salt and put on the stove to boil. When the water has reached a boil, put the peas in and blanch for about 2 minutes. Skim the peas from the pot and plunge them into the ice water to set their color. When fully chilled, drain and reserve.
- Pour a slick of EVOO into a large non-stick skillet, just enough to fully cover the bottom of the pan. Set the pan over medium-high heat, and when the oil is shimmering (and working in batches) gently place the slices of serrano into the pan to cook until crisp, flipping the slices occasionally to ensure even cooking. When cooked, remove the slices to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
- Place the arugula, grated cheese, basil, blanched peas, garlic, and EVOO in a food processor and blitz till smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook the pasta in the large pot according to the manufacturer's instructions to al dente. When cooked, strain the pasta (reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid) and pour the pasta into a large bowl with the pesto, toss to coat, season to taste with salt and pepper. Add reserved cooking liquid as necessary to achieve the consistency you desire.
- To serve, spoon the pasta into warmed bowls, top with crumbled crisp serrano, fresh basil leaves and more grated parmesan. Mangia!