Showing posts with label easy pesto. Show all posts
Showing posts with label easy pesto. Show all posts

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Green Noodles and Pesto

A warm welcome to our guest, Judy Alter, whose first cozy mystery, SKELETON IN A DEAD SPACE, will debut on August 29th!

I didn’t grow up eating much pasta. I don’t think my father, with his British taste and sense of propriety, liked the messiness of spaghetti, and I’m not sure I ever saw him eat lasagna. When I had spaghetti as a child, it was because my folks were going out and my best friend and I were left to heat canned Spaghetti-Os, which we thought were manna from heaven. Oh, yes, we also heated canned spinach to go with it. There you have our two favorite foods. My taste has improved a bit since those days, and I love pasta, especially with a rich, red meat sauce. But there are so many other things to do with it.

    My former sister-in-law served something she called meatless spaghetti, claiming she invented it one night before she and my brother married when he was coming for dinner and she had no money for groceries. She used what she had on hand, melting butter in the skillet, adding cooked spaghetti and lots of lemon juice. I “improved” on the idea by using spinach noodles and adding scallions and mushrooms. Now I also add chopped artichoke hearts and a frozen “ice cube” of homemade pasta. I frequently served “green noodles” as my children were growing up. The dish was a household favorite.  It’s light enough for summer and is a nice one-dish meal.

Green noodles

1 16-oz. pkg. spinach egg noodles
1 stick butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced (I always buy whole and slice them myself—seems fresher)
4 scallions, chopped
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, chopped
1 ice-cube size piece of pesto, thawed (see note)
Juice of one lemon or to taste
Grated fresh Parmesan

Cook and drain noodles. Melt butter in the skillet. (My oldest daughter, Megan, weight-conscious in high school and to this day, used to insist that was too much butter, and it may be but it’s good.) Sauté the garlic. mushrooms and scallions in the butter. Add  lemon juice to taste—I like lots; the mushrooms soak up the lemon and are delicious. Add artichoke hearts and pesto. Add noodles and toss to coat. Make sure all is heated through, and then serve topped with Parmesan.

    My daughter-in-law, Melanie, does a slightly different version for her daughters, Maddie and Edie, both of whom at a very young age loved sour things like pickles and capers. Mel cooks angel hair pasta and butters it liberally; then she adds lemon juice and capers. I watched in amazement as she dumped capers in out of the jar, not bothering to drain them (as I always do, with some difficulty). “Oh, yes,” she said, “the juice adds a really good taste.” I tried it, and she’s right.

Note: I make a batch of pesto when I’m in danger of losing the basil crop to frost and pour it into an old-fashioned ice-cube tray. When frozen, pop the cubes out, put in a baggie and store in the freezer. One or two cubes defrost fairly quickly at room temperature.  You don’t want to microwave them.

My favorite pesto recipe is plain and simple:

2 c. basil, packed
½ c. Parmesan, shredded
½ c. olive oil
1/3 c. nuts—I don’t like pine nuts much and prefer to use pecan pieces
3 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper
Lime juice to taste—but don’t get it too runny.

Put it all in the food process and blend.
I have done this with cilantro, and it’s great.

An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter has written fiction for adults and young adults about women in the nineteenth-century American West. Now she has turned her attention to contemporary cozy mysteries, and the first, Skeleton in a Dead Space, will launch August 29 from Turquoise Morning Press. Judy blogs about cooking at Potluck with Judy,, and about writing and life in general at Judy’s Stew, You can write her at

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Eat Pesto -- Scare Dracula

The kids are back in school, or they'll be going back soon. Next weekend will be your last trip to the beach or the lake or mountains.

Halloween decorations are beginning to show up in stores, which means I won't seem so weird for having them up in my house already! For those who don't know, I'm working on a Halloween book, which means I've got witches and vampires on the mind.

Your garden is uttering the last gasps of summer. The zucchini is spent. The red pepper plants have withered. The cucumbers dried up, and there are only a couple of pathetic lone tomatoes left on the vine.

But in the middle of the garden, planted last spring when you were full of hope and energy, there sits a gigantic plant, the leaves still bright in the sun. It's basil's turn to shine -- which can only mean one thing -- it's time for pesto.

I have to admit that I was not a fan of pesto until I made my own. I suspect pesto is one of those recipes that is better if you tinker with it a little bit to emphasize the flavors you prefer.

The ingredients are fairly basic. Lots of basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. I would recommend using a mild olive oil.

A few years ago, I searched high and low for pine nuts. I found them, too. $12.99 for less than a fistful. Consequently, I am officially a believer in substituting walnuts in pesto. They're every bit as good -- maybe better.

I'm a big fan of garlic, so I'm likely to toss in an extra clove or two. Beware! This is fresh, uncooked garlic, so it has a bite. If you think you might like to use extra garlic, add it gradually. Excellent for warding off the vampires in your life, though. One little poof of air in their direction, and I promise they'll flee!


1/4 cup walnuts
2 medium size garlic cloves
2 cups packed basil leaves (washed and dried)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup olive oil

Combine the walnuts and garlic cloves in a food processor with a few leaves of basil. Pulse until the walnuts and garlic are fine. Mash in the rest of the basil leaves and spin. With the food processor running, add the olive oil in a slow drizzle. Add salt and pepper to taste and whirl one more time.

Toss with pasta, use on pizza or bruschetta, add a dollop to grilled fish, or just spread on a slice of toast for lunch! Enjoy!