It’s pesto making time at our house -- that annual mad dash to gather the basil that has been lovingly cared for all season before it gets hits by frost, and turn it into something marvelous. The kitchen is so fragrant with the freshness of the newly-picked basil that I could almost swoon. There are many recipes for pesto, and I’m sure you have a favorite of your own. Not being a fan of pine nuts, I use walnuts in my recipe, as shown below. But don’t think of pesto as only a dish in itself. It makes a wonderful addition to other recipes, enhancing and freshening the flavors of soups and stews (incredible in Minestrone!), and added to a simple béchamel sauce makes for a wonderful pasta starter dish or main meal.
We had this for dinner with a side salad and crusty roll. Quick and easy for everyday, yet elegant to serve for company.
Shells with Prosciutto and Basil Cream Sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly grated nutmeg
2-3 teaspoons homemade pesto*
4 handfuls shell pasta (I used conchiglie rigate)
3 very thin slices good prosciutto, cut into strips (as well as you can)
In medium stock pot, bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Add salt, if desired, and cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan, melt ½ tablespoon unsalted butter and “frizzle” prosciutto (sauté until it becomes curled and fragrant). Set aside. In medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, pepper, salt, and nutmeg and cook for 2-3 minutes. Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened. stirring occasionally. Stir in pesto. At this point your pasta should be cooking, so drain it (not too well) and add it to the pot with the cream sauce, stir in prosciutto, and serve.
This recipe can be doubled or tripled, depending upon how many people you want to serve. We had this as a main dish for two and this amount of ingredients worked out perfectly.
2 cups packed basil leaves
1/3 cup good olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (substitute pine nuts if you prefer)
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Place basil, olive oil, walnuts, garlic and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until thoroughly combined. Add Parmesan and butter (if using) and pulse until incorporated.
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