Thursday, October 8

Rigatoni with Walnut, Parsley, and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto. And, Yes, It Is a Pesto.

rigatoni with walnut, parsley, and sun-dried tomato pesto

There once was a time when basil reigned supreme. A time when basil was ubiquitous in Italian dishes. A time when pesto always meant basil.

Not anymore.

Pesto is a Ligurian sauce made from mashed basil, garlic, parmesan, olive oil, and pine nuts. Though it has been enjoyed by Italians for centuries, it's a newborn to American cuisine. Sunset magazine was instrumental in introducing this sauce to Americans, when in 1946, it published a pesto recipe by Tuscan native, Angelo Pellegrini. It wasn't until the 1980's and early '90s that pesto became widely popular with chefs and home cooks, who could easily buy fresh basil at the market.

Maybe it was boredom with basil. Maybe it was creative genius by some chefs. Whatever it was, by the mid to late '90s new "pestos" made with herbs such as mint, parsley, and sage were popping up in restaurants and in cooking magazines. Now "pesto" would have to be qualified: mint pesto or sage pesto. Some people were thrilled. Others confused. Some indignant. Pesto purists (you know who you are) will argue that "pesto," refers to the Ligurian sauce made with basil. For them, all other "pestos" are imposters.

You can call me a swindler or a sell-out, but I say, if it's a sauce made with herbs, nuts, oil, and cheese, then it's a pesto. And I'm sticking to it. That is, unless Anthony Bourdain or Mark Bittman or Judith Jones emails me directly to say that I'm wrong. Then I'll change my mind. Maybe.

Rigatoni with Walnut, Parsley, and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
Serves 4-6
Print recipe only here.

The tiny pieces of rich olive oil-soaked sun-dried tomatoes and earthy walnuts make this a satisfyingly thick, knobby pesto that bursts with flavor.

1 cup fresh flat leaf parsley
1 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
1 small garlic clove
3 tablespoons olive oil soaked sun-dried tomatoes
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon water, or more if needed

1 pound rigatoni


1. In a food processor, combine the parsley, walnuts, cheese, and garlic.* Process until the mixture is finely chopped. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, lemon juice, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil, then water in a steady stream, and process until smooth. (Add additional water or olive if necessary to achieve desired consistency.) Set aside.

*Note regarding garlic:
If you don't prefer the pungency of raw garlic, then heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small skillet over low heat. Add garlic, and saute until slightly golden, 2-3 minutes. Then add to food processor.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta. Cook, stirring frequently, until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta.

3. Place the pasta in a large warmed serving bowl. Top with pesto, and toss well. Garnish with grated cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.

You might also enjoy these pasta recipes from Food Blogga:
Creamy Goat Cheese and Beet Green Pasta
Quick Italian Tuna and Olive Pasta
Pasta with Lemony Broccoli, Walnuts, and Toasted Breadcrumbs


You might also like these pesto recipes:
Cilantro-Lime Pesto recipe at 5 Second Rule
Mint Pesto recipe at Savour Fare
Rosemary Pesto recipe at Real Epicurean
Rocket/Arugula Pesto recipe at Home Gourmets

45 comments:

rookie cookie said...

Pesto impostor: "impestor"?

I've never made pesto without basil. It's nice to know it can still be called pesto without basil. I tend to lean more towards the correct-term food snobbery. Not my best personality trait.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I'd prefer to think of you as a culinary trailblazer! :-)

Danielle said...

what ever you want to call it, it sounds fantastic

ali @ gimme some oven said...

YUM! Sun-dried tomato pestos seem to be all the rage right now! Very fun - and I love that the ingredients are readily available in the winter season too!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That is one flavorful pasta dish! It looks so yummy!

Cheers,

Rosa

La Pastry Chef said...

This sounds like a great combination of flavors. There's a Giada De Laurentiis Spinach, Pine Nut and Lemon Pesto that I really like. I'm all for experimentation!

Kalyn said...

Not a pesto purist here at all! And I love the sound of this one.

Happy cook said...

Wow i am sure bookmarking this, looks so so yummy.

Kate said...

Pesto, or 'pistou' loosely translates as 'pounded', but over time became known as the standard offering that it is today. Kind of like 'Kleenex'.

I did a spinach pesto this past spring that was delicious, and also a beet green pesto that was loaded with deep earthy flavor. This one looks perfect for more experimenting.

elly said...

Looks fantastic! I love pasta dishes like this where the ingredients are simple and common, but the end result is so flavorful.

Debbie said...

Oh yum...that looks so delicious. Love all types of pasta dishes!

Jackie said...

This looks fantastic. I have some rigatoni at home begging to be dressed up with this pesto.

nora@ffr said...

oh wow!! i love the color! just beyond impressive :)
cheers!

The Food Hunter said...

This sounds like a great pesto! I can't wait to try it.

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

I love trying out all the different variations of pesto! This one looks like a winner!

nora@ffr said...

oh wow!! i love the color! just beyond impressive :)
cheers!

Hillary said...

I think rigatoni is my favorite pasta shape of all time. Love the ingredients you paired it with!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I'm with you! This wasn't a great year for parsley in my garden, but when I put in a dozen parsley plants every spring, hoping for amazing flavor and abundant harvest so I can make parsley pesto for the winter.

Lori Lynn said...

I bet those three did not email you.
They'd be impressed.
Looks excellent.
LL

Sprouted Kitchen said...

love it. pesto can be made with so many nuts and herbs, I'm glad you posted about this, and with such a great recipe!

Maria said...

I love your twist on the classic pesto.

culinography said...

Agree completely! Variety is good and this sounds amazing!

Lynda said...

I'll side with you in the argument. Basil is lovely, but I also like to make "pesto" with coriander and parsley. They are less pungent and very versatile as dips, garnishes, sauces.

The Teacher Cooks said...

Nice touch for pesto. It sounds delicious and easy to put together.

Bellini Valli said...

I can honestly say I have never met a pesto I didn't like Susan.

Bumblebeegirl said...

I love pestos and agree with your pesto logic. From Etymology Online:(pestare "to pound, to crush," in ref. to the crushed herbs and garlic in it, from L. root of pestle.) Also, consider the word paste.

My mother in law, having married a man from Genoa, will hear none of it.

Deborah Dowd said...

This sounds amazing, basil or no! Can't wait to give it a try.

We Are Not Martha said...

I love pesto and I think yours is just as good (or maybe better!) than any old basil pesto. This looks delicious!

Sues

Anushruti said...

Wow! That was some amazing pesto information. I like mine without garlic and I always argue with purists that it doesnt make it less authentic.

lisaiscooking said...

I have a thing for pestos. I love trying any and all varieties, and this sounds like a delicious one!

veron said...

I always love walnuts with pasta. And rigatoni has become my favorite!

Cheryl said...

Yo! Thanks for linking to my pesto. And love the new snazzy photo of you!

Africantapestry and Myfrenchkitchen said...

Delicious Susan and I agree with you...pesto isn't just a basil sauce anymore!
Ronelle

Garrett said...

My general opinion has been this:
nut + herb + cheese = pesto

It works well for me.

Ivy said...

I am glad to hear this from someone with Italian roots. I've been making all kinds of pestos and my favourite is with mint. This one is a combination I have never made.

Manggy said...

Hey, as long as it's this delicious, you get no argument from me :) But what if Lidia Bastianich or Mario Batali calls? ;)

Sarah Caron said...

I am definitely not a purist ... and I might even change the definition to include nut-free versions (there is this one that I get at the local farmers' market that is a basil nut-free pesto -- out of this world). This version sounds delish.

Abby said...

Basil pesto is indeed my favorite, but I'm game to try ANY kind of pasta.

Soma said...

I completely agree with your pesto:D & love it. Sun dried tomato is my favorite thing, & this pasta with the non traditional pesto is singing to me.

nora@ffr said...

wow!! my husband is a pasta fan!! m sure gonna make this for him! thanx for sharing!
cheers!!

Ashlee Akey said...

I cannot believe how delicious this looks!!! I love your recipes (as do the people I work with since I bring your creations)! Keep 'em coming!

Daziano said...

You can't go wrong with walnuts and pesto ;)

Pesto means 'I pound (in a mortar)', so in a way you're right... however as you say for Italians 'pesto' is just the one made with basil ;) Cheers!

Kelsey B. said...

I agree with your pesto assessment! And love your recipe. I use pine nuts in mine!

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Even in Italy, pestos without basil are very common. An extremely traditional one in winter is walnut and parsley. Sicilians use chiles in their pesto. Pesto with sun-dried tomatoes is not uncommon south of Napoli.

So rage on, sistah! Your pesto is just as authentic as anyone else's -- just don't use a food processor! The one thing a pesto MUST be is pounded with a mortar and pestle...

h.

Scott at Real Epicurean said...

And a great looking pesto it is, too.

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