Yum. Just Yum. I am looking at this picture, remembering last night’s dinner, and wishing I could go back in time and be eating this. But actually, then tomorrow would be Monday. So maybe I just want to make this again. Good thing it was deceptively easy!
You see, I have a slight obsession with pesto. I love it smothering a big bowl of pasta or liberally spread on a baguette as a starter to the perfect sandwich. But I’m pretty picky about it. I mean, who needs all that oil and cheese when you can have all of the flavor without it, keeping your dish light enough to have room for dessert?
Last summer, Angela, who’s recipes have yet to fail me, posted this recipe for Roasted Tomato Basil Pesto which combines two of summer’s greatest gifts, tomato and fresh basil, into a beautifully flavorful summer pesto using very little oil. I made this as much as I could before I had to say good bye to summer produce for another year. Since then, I have literally had day dreams about this stuff. And you know how people say literally when they don’t actually mean it? Yeah, I mean it. Ok I know that’s weird so lets just move on.
As this cold spell we’ve been having in the Northeast will remind me, it’s not quite summer yet. But as I was stocking up on produce at the market, the basil plants caught my eye (who needs flowers?). I decided that I could not wait another month to get my pesto fix so I picked up the best looking plant of the bunch (ugh, I can be so shallow) along with some of his good looking friends and got to work in the kitchen.
My original plan was to follow Angela’s recipe. I mean, why mess with a good thing. But then I remembered that I’m blogging again so I thought I’d get creative. I used her recipe as inspiration but my version adds roasted red peppers, substitutes walnuts for the almonds, and adds some acidity in the form of lemon juice and balsamic vinegar to brighten the flavors. The end results were fabulous. Perfect for a Sunday night dinner while you dream about summer.
1 pint grape tomatoes
3/4 cup roasted red peppers (or one whole pepper, roasted)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted (see below)
1 1/2 cup packed basil
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1-2 tbsp olive oil plus more for tomatoes
~1/2 tsp ppaprika
Salt and Pepper to taste
Red Pepper flakes to taste
Spread tomatoes on baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 25-30 minutes, turning once halfway through. When finished cooking, remove from oven and set aside. Side note: if you accidently “taste-tested” too many tomatoes and are now left with about 3/4 of a pint, that’s ok your pesto will still be delicious. Not that I would know firsthand or anything…
Reduce heat to 325 degrees. Spread walnuts on baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes until they just begin to brown. Taste-test a few of those too for good measure.
Add garlic to your food processor until finely chopped. Then add walnuts and process until they are slightly shy of a powder-like consistency. Add tomatoes, peppers, oil, vinegar, lemon, and seasonings and process until smooth (about 1 minute). Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
That’s all! Super simple, full of flavor, and it comes together in a flash thanks to the quick roasting time of the grape tomatoes. I thought the roasted peppers might dominate the flavor profile, but they were actually quite subtle in the dish, allowing the flavor of the basil and tomatoes to take center stage while adding something extra in the background. I also loved the earthyness and texture that the walnuts added, as well as the lemon juice and balsamic which really brought all of the flavors together.
After deciding that spoonfuls of this pesto directly in my mouth probably did not constitute a meal, I made some fusilli pasta and started a pan with portobello mushrooms, spinach, and more roasted red peppers. When the veggies were heated and the pasta was done, I added it all together in the pan with about half a cup of the pesto and tossed until everything was covered. Then sprinkled with fresh parmesan. Like I said, I will be repeating this dinner very soon.
I will also be experimenting with new ways to transport the leftover pesto into my mouth. No wrap, cracker, or spoon is safe!