Rustic Genovese Basil Pesto Pasta

Hell's Kitchen champ Christina Machamer's hearty basil pesto - traditional as it is - isn't "weighted" in the past, thanks to the use of Fontinella cheese or low-fat Parmesan. Plus, you can play around with different herbs to make novel pestos.
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Serves: 6

INGREDIENTS:
Basil Pesto

  • 4 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3 to 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (or as needed)
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 2 tbsp (heaping full) Fontinella cheese or low-fat Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Pasta

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 10 thyme sprigs
  • Kosher salt and finely ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small Russet potato, peeled
  • 1 cup green beans, sliced
  • 1/4-inch on the bias 12-oz whole-wheat pasta (Machamer recommends tagliatelle or fettuccine)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Prepare pesto: Bring 1 gallon salinated water to a rapid boil. Blanch and shock basil leaves by adding them to boiling water for about 5 seconds, then quickly submerging them in an ice bath. (NOTE: This will set the chlorophyll in the basil so the pesto remains bright green.) Squeeze excess water out of basil and roughly chop.
  2. In a blender or food processor, process basil with enough oil to emulsify, about 3 to 4 tbsp. Add garlic, nuts and cheese and season with salt. Continue blending just enough to emulsify. (NOTE: Pesto should have a slightly course texture.) Chill until needed. Pesto will keep up to 2 days but is best served the day it is made.
  3. Prepare pasta: Preheat oven to 350°F. In an oven-safe baking dish, arrange tomatoes cut side up. Arrange thyme sprigs over top, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with oil. Bake tomatoes until they just begin to brown and caramelize, approximately 15 minutes.
  4. Bring 1 gallon salinated water to a rapid boil. Meanwhile, mince potato either by hand or in a food processor. Blanch beans in boiling water for about 4 minutes, then quickly submerge in an ice bath. Set aside. In the same water, add pasta and potato and cook until pasta is tender. (NOTE: Cooking time will vary by pasta type used, but standard time is 7 to 9 minutes.) Strain pasta along with potato.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, pesto, beans and pasta-potato mixture. Toss until well combined.

Nutrients per serving (4 oz pasta and 1 oz pesto): Calories: 460, Total Fat: 14 g, Sat. Fat: 2.5 g, Carbs: 69 g, Fiber: 14 g, Sugars: 5 g, Protein: 19 g, Sodium: 120 mg, Cholesterol: 0 mg

NOTE:
Pasta may only be reheated under low heat. High heat will cause the oil in the pesto to separate.

See AlsoAvocado Pesto