Is the basil in your garden reaching its peak, but the tomatoes nowhere near being ripe?
Just when you'd like the basil to cozy up to those tomatoes in a salad bowl, these crops never mature at the same time.
If you prune your basil now however, it will re-sprout a second crop in time to use with those tomatoes that will ripen in a few weeks. Don't cut off all the basil leaves however - just trim back to a juncture above a pair of leaves.
If you don't prune your basil (or at least pinch the tips when they start to flower), the basil will go to seed and you'll lose the opportunity for that second crop.
But what to do with the armful of basil you pick now when they're aren't fresh tomatoes for a salad?
That's easy. Make pesto!
I've written posts on pesto before, including pesto with shrimp (click here), and a basic pesto primer (click here) that shows you how to make a real pesto alla Genovese, and how to keep your pesto a bright green color.
Since I recently had some zucchini from the farmer's market looking for a home, I combined it with the pesto and served it over fusilli pasta.
If you're a traditionalist (or a glutton for punishment), try making pesto with a mortar and pestle - the way I had it the first time I ate it in Italy at the home of one of my cousins.
You can whir everything together, then start the pasta cooking while you sauté the zucchini.
In the time it takes to boil the pasta, dinner can be on the table.
Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I'm cooking up each day.
Pesto with Zucchini
(enough for one pound of pasta)
2 medium zucchini, sliced into rounds about 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil
These amounts aren't exact. A lot depends on how firmly you pack the basil into the measuring cup, how large the garlic cloves are, and of course, your taste buds.
4 cups basil, loosely packed
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 cut pistachios (or pine nuts)
extra virgin olive oil (as much as two cups, as needed to obtain a loose pesto)
1/4 cup - 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 pound pasta - trofie, linguini or trenette are common in Italy with this sauce, but farfalle (bowties) or fusilli (pictured above) are nice too.
Sauté the zucchini rounds in the olive oil, adding salt and pepper to season. Cook until softened, but not mushy.
Start the water boiling for the pasta while you prepare the pesto sauce.
If using a food processor: Tear leaves from stem, wash, dry and place in a food processor, along with the garlic, nuts and a small amount of the olive oil. Start with 1/2 cup and keep adding more until it flows smoothly when you dip a spoon into it, but not so thin that it falls off in a stream. Use your judgment.
Add parmesan cheese if serving immediately. If you're planning to freeze it, don't add the parmesan cheese until after you defrost it and are ready to serve.
If using a mortar and pestle, start with the washed and dried basil leaves, garlic and nuts and add a small amount of coarse salt to help break down the leaves. Pound with the pestle and slowly add a little bit of olive oil. Keep working the mixture with the pestle and add the rest of the oil as needed. The process takes a lot of patience and time.
After the pesto is made and the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta, holding onto a half cup or so of the water. You can use this to thin out the sauce when you're mixing the pesto into the pasta.Mix the pesto with the pasta, then add the sautéed zucchini. Toss everything together, adding more pasta water if you need to thin out the sauce. Serve with additional parmesan cheese, if desired.