After reading about a homemade pesto sauce at Little Sprouts Learning, I felt inspired to try my hand at making this classic Italian staple. Though most traditional recipes call for either basil or parsley, I decided to combine the two because I had ample amounts of both herbs flourishing in my garden. Although I think the recipe could still use a little bit of tweaking, it resulted in a healthy, tasty sauce. But because Todd likes meat, we also decided to add bacon to our pasta. This recipe serves about four people, depending upon how much each of them eat. We found that it was too much for just the two of us, but we didn’t mind because that meant we’d have leftovers to eat another day!
~ 3/4 cup olive oil
~ 2 cups fresh basil
~ 1 1/2 cups parsley
~ 1/3 cup pine nuts (and a cookie sheet if you’re going to toast them in the oven)
~ 1/2 cup Pecorino-Romano cheese
~ 1 lemon
~ 1 lb of pasta (we used rotini)
~ 1 vidalia onion
~ 1 package of sliced baby bella mushrooms
~ 1 package Nature’s Promise hickory-smoked bacon
~ 2 tablespoons tarragon leaves
*A note on the ingredients: You might have to adjust the amounts of herbs versus cheese in the pesto. We had originally started with fewer herbs, but thought the cheese was too overpowering, so we added some more, resulting in approximately the measurements above. In addition, while most pesto recipes call for Parmesan cheese, we used Pecorino-Romano because I don’t really care for Parmesan. Lastly, we used baby bella mushrooms, but I think I would have swapped them out for cremini mushrooms (my favorite!) if they had been at the farmer’s market. So if you can get fresh cremini mushrooms, I’d definitely suggest using those instead.
~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While the oven is heating up, clean your basil and parsley leaves and let them dry (or pat them dry).
~ Spread the pine nuts on the cookie sheet and pop in the oven for approximately 10 minutes or until golden brown. Stir occasionally.
~ In a large saucepan, drizzle olive oil and then sautee onions and mushrooms on low to medium heat in order that they will get soft.
~ In a blender, combine the basil, parsley, olive oil, cheese, juice squeezed from a whole lemon, salt and pepper to taste. Add toasted pine nuts once they’ve emerged from the oven and blend.
~ Chop bacon into wide chunks (as seen in the picture below) and fry in a skillet until it starts to get crisp. Around this time, I’d suggest you start boiling the water for the pasta, though I always find it hard to tell exactly how long it’s going to take for the water to boil.
~ While the pasta is cooking, pour bacon grease out of the skillet and then combine the bacon with the onions and mushrooms.
~ Pour pesto into the skillet and let simmer on the lowest heat.
~ Once the pasta is ready, mix 1/2 cup of pasta water into the saucepan. Mix the contents of the saucepan with the pasta and serve.
*A note about serving: When warming this up and eating it for lunch the following day, I mixed into my bowl two teaspoons of sour cream, and that added a nice, soft tang. I would definitely recommend doing that if you have enough for leftovers.