Easy-to-make pesto adds rich flavor to simple dishes

January 10, 2007|By Linda Gassenheimer | Linda Gassenheimer,McClatchy-Tribune

Many Italians consider the traditional crushing of fresh herbs, garlic, parmesan cheese and olive oil in a mortar and pestle the only way to make a true pesto sauce.

While fresh basil and parsley are the ingredients for the classic pesto, almost any herb or vegetable can be used. Sun-dried tomatoes have an intense, sweet flavor and make a flavorful pesto sauce.

Pine nuts, also called pignoli, are essential for an authentic pesto. They are small seeds of the Mediterranean stone pine. They can be found in the spice, nuts or baking section of the supermarket.

This pesto is so easy, you should make extra and use it as a spread on bread, a topping for pizza or as an addition to soups. It will keep several days in the refrigerator.

Here, it tops pasta and accompanies an easy baked fish entree.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta

Makes 2 servings

1 cup water

3/4 cup (1 1/2 ounces) sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)

2 plum tomatoes, quartered

1 small garlic clove

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon pine nuts

1/4 pound spaghetti

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place a pot with 3 to 4 quarts of water on to boil. In a separate pot, heat 1 cup water. (This can be done in a microwave for 2 minutes on high.)

Add sun-dried tomatoes and soak 5 minutes. Remove the tomatoes from the water and remove 2 tablespoons of the liquid. Place the liquid, the reconstituted tomatoes, plum tomatoes, garlic, oil and vinegar in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.

Remove to a serving bowl and add parmesan cheese and pine nuts. Boil spaghetti 9 minutes or until done.

Drain, add to the pesto and toss well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Per serving: 398 calories, 14 grams protein, 63 grams carbohydrate, 12 grams fat, 2.1 grams fiber, 5 milligrams cholesterol, 158 milligrams sodium

TIPS FOR PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Use dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes, not ones packed in oil.

Buy good-quality parmesan cheese and ask the market to grate it for you or chop it in the food processor yourself. Freeze extra for quick use.

Wine suggestion: The delicate flavors of fish and mushrooms call for something light-bodied and bone dry. A nice French muscadet would be superb.

Countdown

Place water for pasta on to boil.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Prepare fish.

Boil spaghetti.

Prepare pesto.

What's needed

Here are the ingredients you'll need for the dinner:

To buy: 1/4 pound mushrooms, 1 small bunch fresh thyme, one 2-ounce package sun-dried tomatoes, 2 plum tomatoes, 1 small jar pine nuts and 1 small package spaghetti

Staples: Garlic, balsamic vinegar, parmesan cheese, olive oil spray, olive oil, white wine, salt and black peppercorns

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