This is the time of year when I have to exert extreme self-control. Here in the Northeast it has JUST started to consistently be above freezing at night (I know!) and so a couple of weeks ago I planted my annual crop of basil plants. They are bright and cheery and they smell enticingly of, well, basil. But they are still babies, and so I have to wait a couple more weeks before I start picking giant bunches of them to cook with. Luckily, I don’t have to wait for pesto though, because as it turns out, parsley makes an absolutely fantastic pesto. Who knew?? (I did. Read on!)
Parsley is the bigger, tougher cousin of basil, and it’s already grown big and bold and is ready for me to lop off giant handfuls of it. I grow my herbs in whiskey barrels outside my kitchen door, and the first day I can start picking my own instead of buying million dollar packets of them at the supermarket is a Happy Day.
Parsley pesto is made almost the same way as the classic basil pesto – whirled around in the food processor with some olive oil and a few other ingredients – but because parsley has a different, sharper taste than basil, the supporting ingredients are a little softer. I like to make mine with walnuts and Parmesan cheese. I’ve seen other folks use almonds instead of walnuts, and if you like a spicier pesto by all means use toss in a couple of cloves of garlic. This is an easy and flexible recipe…just the way a summer recipe should be!
Make sure you save some of the pasta water before you drain the pasta, and when you are tossing the hot pasta with the pesto add a little bit of the pasta water to make a light sauce. I like to sprinkle a few pieces of chopped parsley on top just to make things pretty, and then I start twirling. Fresh and green and summery and delicious.
Don’t worry basil, I’ll be picking you soon…but you might need to give the parsley equal time this summer, pesto-wise…
- 8 ounces spaghetti or linguine
- 4 cups fresh parsley (stems and all)
- ½ cup walnuts
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook pasta according to package directions in heavily salted water. Scoop out a cup of pasta water before you drain it.
- While the pasta is cooking, make the pesto: process the parsley and walnuts until well chopped. Add the cheese and pulse a few times. Now pour the oil through the feeder tube while the processor is running until the pesto is smooth.
- Toss the hot pasta with the pesto, adding the pesto in increments until you have the amount you like on your pasta (you may have some leftover, which is a wonderful thing!). Add a little pasta water until the pasta has a light sauce.
- Serve garnished with a little chopped parsley and fresh ground pepper.