Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pasta with Roasted Garlic Pesto

My garden is in full swing these days.   Tons of little green tomatoes and peppers of several varieties, tiny heirloom watermelons, lots of herbs.  In a few weeks I hope to be able to start picking the cherry tomatoes, the first ones are just beginning to turn red.  In the meantime, I've satisfied myself with using the fiery red fresno chiles in salsas and the herbs, most especially the basil.

I think this might be the third or fourth post in which I've used basil or pesto, that's how much love the stuff.  I'm Italian, it's in my blood.  So when, about a week ago, I ran across a comment in a Food and Wine Facebook thread about roasted garlic pesto with pasta, my heart skipped a beat with excitement.  I never thought to try roasted garlic in pesto, that sharp raw garlic bite is a hallmark of the original.  But why shouldn't it be great?  The mellow flavor of the roasted garlic goes with just about anything, so it should make a nice, creamy sauce that would be perfect for mixing with a wide pasta noodle.  After a bit of research, I came up with a recipe that I thought was worth trying out.  I have to say, the end result was a hearty, easy summertime meal that I will be making time and again.

Pasta with Roasted Garlic Pesto
I made fresh pasta to go with the sauce, but you certainly don't have to.  A store-bought fresh pasta like a linguini would be great or even ravioli or tortellini.  You could even used dried linguini.

1 head garlic
2 cups packed basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup parmesean cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 tsp salt
freshly grated black pepper to taste
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 lb dry pasta or enough fresh pasta for 4 servings

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the top of the head of garlic off (about 1/4 inch) so that the tops of the cloves of garlic are exposed.  Lay the garlic in a square of aluminum foil and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Fold the foil around the garlic and put the package in the oven.  Roast for 30-40 minutes, until the cloves are soft and golden.  Set the garlic aside to cool.

In a food processor or blender, put the basil, olive oil, parmesean cheese, pine nuts, salt, and pepper.  Squeeze the garlic from the head into the rest of the ingredients.  Blend until smooth.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Generously salt the water then add the pasta.  Fresh pasta will only take a few minutes, so be ready with another large saucepan to make the sauce.  In the saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer then add the pesto.  Warm through, but do not let the sauce boil or the cream will break.  When the pasta is done (follow package directions), drain it and add it to the saucepan.  Stir to combine and serve with additional cheese as desired. 

As my Nana would say, mangia!


  1. Since you mention pesto so much -- any suggestions for making it without pine nuts? I've heard you can substitute with water chestnuts. We've got a full basil plant on the patio and would love to be able to make pesto with it.

  2. You can simply leave the nuts out Julie. Do you have a nut allergy at home? If not you can use walnuts- they do that as well in some parts of Italy. Or try toasted pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas). Does that help?

  3. One more thing- if you leave the nuts out, add a bit more parmesean cheese to make up for the texture difference. But the pumpkin seeds should work since they are not tree nuts, the nuts are in the recipe for texture more than flavor.