Pass the Pesto

Caesar salad was not named for the Roman emperor.  It was named for the restaurateur who invented it; an Italian guy in Tijuana named Caesar.

Popsicles originated with a kid who left a cup of juice out on the porch one very cold night.

Onion rings were first made by a clumsy short order cook who accidently dumped a load of sliced onions into some pancake batter.  He then made the conscious decision to dump them in the deep fryer.

And last night I invented broccoli pecan pesto.

This summer I’ve been growing basil.  But because basil has black licorice undertones, I only like it in small doses.  I use it more as a flavor accent.  So traditional pesto is not something toward which I gravitate.  But I really like the idea of a fresh green dressing for pasta.

In Italian pesto means “grind”.  Pesto with basil is traditional, not mandatory.  In any specialty store you can find pestos made with lots of different things, like tomatoes, artichokes, and olives.  So continuing the long tradition of anybody or anything not being the boss of me, I decided to make a fresh green pesto using some broccoli I’d picked up on sale at Lowes.

Pesto usually has handfuls of basil, olive oil, garlic, Parmesan, and pine nuts or walnuts.

I’m not crazy about walnuts, but I do really like pine nuts.  There are two big problems with pine nuts, though.  First, I didn’t have any on hand, and I wanted to make the dish just using stuff I had at the house.

Have some pasta pesto they said. It’ll be delicious, they said.

And the next, but far more serious problem, Chinese pine nuts can cause dysgeusia.  It’s a disease that causes you to grow gills and a tail…just joking, it’s really when your sense of taste gets shut down.  And since it’s not always possible to know from where your pine nuts originated, I usually just steer clear.

Lucky for me, though, my sister-in-law’s family has pecan orchards.  Each year, after harvest, I get 3 or 4 gallon zip bags of whole, shelled nuts.

So pecans it would be.

One good thing about this recipe is that it’s put through a food processor so you can use quite a bit of the stem.  I like steamed broccoli stems, but many people don’t (hello, Petey).  This way, they’ll never even know.

You’ll have extra pesto.  Just put the rest into a container, label it, and stick it into the freezer for future use.

Make sure you don’t drain the pasta before mixing in the sauce.  Take it from the water straight to the sauce.  The starchy water lets the pesto coat each strand.

Broccoli pesto pasta with chicken

broc pesto

2 broccoli crowns, cut into florets, leaving some stem

1/2 small onion

3-5 cloves garlic

¼ cup Parmesan + more to finish

¼ cup pecans

¼ cup olive oil

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Up to ½ cup water

Put everything except water into food processor, and puree. Add water, a little at a time, until it’s pesto consistency.

Creamy pesto pasta

chix pesto

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 boneless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch cubes

2 cups pesto

½ cup white wine

½ cup skim milk

½ cup heavy cream

16 ounces spaghetti

Salt and pepper

Heat large skillet on medium-high.  Bring another large pot of heavily salted water to boiling.  Cook pasta for a minute less than the instructions. 

Pour olive oil into skillet.  Season chicken, brown, and remove from pan.

Put pesto into the same pan, and cook until it’s heated through and tastes cooked (about 5-7 minutes).  Pour in wine and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the pesto has tightened up.

Whisk in milk and cream, and bring to rolling boil.  Continue cooking until thickened.

Remove pasta from water with tongs or a slotted spoon, and put directly into sauce.  Cook for a minute or so, adding a little pasta water if it’s too tight.  Stir in a handful of Parmesan, and plate.

Serves 4-6.

I loved inventing a recipe that turned out to be tasty.  I may not be the Wizard of Menlo Park, but it turns out I’m the conjuror of the cul-de-sac.

So, you would be shocked at what pops up when you google “magic wand”…

Thanks for your time.

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