Friday, June 07, 2013

Summer Recipe: Pesto Zucchini Rotini with Tomatoes

With all the herbs that are growing... I just couldn't resist NOT trying out some new recipes/combinations. We LOVE basil in our house... but I've always killed the plant in the past, that I wasn't sure how it was going to "hold up" when I tried growing it here in Oklahoma. But it's taken off... in fact, I needed to use a whole bunch of it, to help "cut it back" some.

A couple things I've learned about basil:

- the more you pick from it, the more it grows! Isn't that fantastic... it's like the "giving" herb... it keeps on giving.

- the best time of the day to pick, is in the morning, after the morning dew dries... the sun robs the plant of its essential oils... so picking earlier in the day, is best.

- when you pick, pinch the branch right below the leaf... and the TOP leaves, should be picked first... not the bottom ones. The top leaves have the most pungent smell/fragrance.

- when your basil plant is nearly ready to flower, you cut that flowering stem right off! It's getting ready to produce and cutting it away is going to allow your plant to grow more. Mine hasn't flowered yet (this I know from previous experiences as well as with other herbs)... and tends to happen when it's exposed to heat... high heat (75 degrees and above).

So, what do you make if you have a lot of basil? ... well, I'm sure there's a ton of possibilities... but in my mind, the first thing that came to me, was pesto. We've use a few leaves here and there for tomato sauce, but like I said, I needed to "cut it back", so I needed to pick a lot... and it would have been TOO much for tomato sauce.

You can make pesto, a bunch of different ways, but I tried to stick with a basic/simple concoction. Pardon me... I didn't use exact measurements, so these are "rough" measurements: 

- 1 bag of pine nuts ( 2.25 ounce bag- about 1 cups worth).... some people use almonds or walnuts... but I decided to go with what I had on hand. 

- a HUGE handful of basil... when I say huge, I mean at least 10-15 big leaves worth. 

- 1/2 c. to 3/4 c. of olive oil

- 1/2 c. of shredded parmesan cheese... if you're a cheese lover, and want it to be a little cheesier, than add more... this is not the powdered parmesan, this is the no kidding block of cheese parmesan that you'll grate down.

- squeeze a quarter to half of lemon and add the juice to your mixture.

- salt and pepper to taste

You'll take everything, and blend together in a food processor, or blender ( I used our Blendtec). Pulse until you've created a nice creamy mixture. Some people like chunks of pine nuts, and some don't... so really the thickness is totally up to you. I prefer no chunks... so I pulsed my blender for about a minute.

Now that you have your pesto sauce... you can create multiple different dishes, but I made a delicious pasta that I think you will all love. I hope.

For the pasta, I purchased a homemade zucchini rotini noodles... so instead of buying a plain jane rotini noodle (high in sugar carb), I opted to try out a vegetable noodle. These still have carbs in them, but to me, they're more scrumptious, have a little more flavor, and you can get a serving of vegetable. bonus!

I also cut up 1 cup of grape tomatoes (in halves)... I'm sure you can add other scrumptious veggies (like fresh peas, peppers, or even cooked yellow squash), but I kept it simple with adding tomatoes.


Leave halved grape tomatoes at the bottom of the colander after rinsing them off. When pasta is all done cooking (cook as much as you'd like), drain over tomatoes into colander. This helps warm those tomatoes up, and yet they still have a bit of a "crunch" to them. Transfer noodles and tomatoes to a bowl... and add all of your pesto! Stir it up quickly while the noodles are still warm, so that the parmesan cheese in the pesto melts perfectly around the noodles.. and add some salt to taste. If you're a cheese eater, add a little bit of shredded parmesan to the top... and serve. This tastes DELICIOUS warm, but I'm guessing it'll taste great as a cold salad as well. I served it with some grilled chicken. 

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  1. Just saw you got a polaroid! LOVE! What would I look up if I wanted to purchase that same model? So fun.

    1. they sell them on (I think that's the website)... it's not quite a "polaroid print" that comes out, but it "looks" like it, and it's a new model made by Polaroid.

  2. we have some basil growing and it is my first year with a garden! I am so excited to get cooking this summer with some fresh herbs from my own garden!! Thanks for the tips abut basil, I just pinned this, so helpful!!

    1. yay! so happy that it could be helpful for you! Oh fresh herbs are just the GREATEST!

  3. Yum! I just potted some basil, so after I get a few more leaves I'm going to make this! We love love love pesto.