Rolling the Dice and Clinking the Ice

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pasta with Tomato and Almond Pesto from America's Test Kitchen

I'm on a recipe sharing kick and this week I want to share one from a public broadcasting TV show that my husband and I love. It's called America's Test Kitchen and you can find it on your PBS channel. I believe they've been on air for over 10 years now, but if you've never seen this show, then I highly recommend you catch an episode. They always demonstrate a recipe or two, but as the name suggests, they also test out different cooking equipment - blenders, specialty knives, toasters, etc as well as test various products. They also do blind taste testing on coffee blends or various peanut butter brands to see which one the audience prefers most. Needless to say, it's really interesting, very educational and the recipes you'll get from them are awesome!

The America's Test Kitchen recipe below is borrowed from the Italian chef, Lidia Bastianich and they call it Pasta with Tomato and Almond Pesto. It's a pink pesto sauce from Trapani, Italy, which is on the north west shore of Sicily. Apparently, every region of Italy puts their own spin on pesto and in Trapani the basil isn't the star ingredient for this sauce, the tomatoes are, which is why it's pink and not green. Another difference is they use almonds as opposed to more traditional pine nuts. You'll find that this dish is super easy, you can make it in under 20 minutes and it's seriously good. We've made it several times now and it's never let us down.

Below is what you'll need to get started...
  • pound of pasta – they suggest spaghetti or linguine, but my husband and I use angel hair
  • quarter cup of almonds – slivered and blanched (blanched means without the skin)
  • 2 ½ cups of cherry tomatoes – could use grape tomatoes too, just need a sweet tomato
  • ½ cup of whole basil leaves
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • teaspoon of salt
  • pinch of red pepper
  • one small pepperoncini, minced
  • 1/3 cup of EVOO
  • ½ cup of fresh grated parmesan

You'll also need a food processor or blender. A food processor is preferred, but they said a blender would work as well.

Start by toasting your slivered almonds over the stove on medium heat. They won't be there for long, just until they're golden brown. While these are toasting, start boiling your water for the pound of pasta. In a blender, add your toasted almonds, cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, garlic, salt, red pepper and pepperoncini. Blend this for about a minute and then add the EVOO while the blender is still in motion. You want to add the EVOO slowly to the mixture, just drizzle it in. By the time these ingredients are well blended your pasta should be ready. You'll want to reserve some pasta water before draining. This can be used to moisten your dish if you think it looks a little dry after everything has been mixed together. And always taste the pasta to ensure the desired texture has been reached, it should be slightly resistant in the center when chewed. As the Italians say, cook the pasta until al dente which literally means 'to the tooth.' After your pasta has been drained, add to your pesto sauce. Add your parmesan cheese, give it a toss and there you have it... a fresh and authentic Pesto Trapanese pasta in under 20 minutes.

Please pardon how grainy this photo looks, I snapped it with my iPhone.
You'll notice we doubled the recipe, we wanted more left overs this time around!
Slowly pouring in the EVOO
Sauce before mixing, beautiful color!
Ahh perfetto! :)

And at my house, we typically eat this meatless, but adding a piece of chicken, fish or shrimp would be an excellent choice if you gotta have the protein. Oh and after mixing everything together, you'll notice there is a modest amount of sauce, but keep in mind that this is the classic Italian way of serving pasta. If you like a little more sauce then just double what you put in the food processor or cut back on the noodles.

Some of the cast from America's Test Kitchen, the main host, Christopher Kimball, is in the red apron.

Christopher and Julia Collin Davison on the set whipping up something delish.

Lidia Bastianich, chef/author/tv host, who was a guest appearance on this particular episode providing the recipe.

Hope you enjoy this Italian dish as much as we do!

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