It takes a lot to get me excited about pasta. I think I got burned out on it while getting my undergraduate: late night eating + tiny budget = lots of pasta. But that is one of the appeals of pasta, right? It’s cheap, filling, easy to make, and can be dressed up to suit.
It’s just that what it’s dressed up in is not always to suit.
This sauce is an exception, the exception. I can’t even begin to explain how delicious it is. But I owe it to you to try.
It’s made from all fresh ingredients, a meld of tomatoes and a basil pesto, landing somewhere between heavy sauce and oil, and it’s so easy. Seriously. I only used a food processor. That’s it.
This recipe comes from Lidia Bastianich’s Lidia’s Family Kitchen: Nonna’s Birthday Surprise, a beautifully illustrated children’s book focused on providing recipes to make with children that celebrate fresh ingredients.
So, naturally I called upon my favorite assistant Sophie to make it. It was perfect because we were able to spend time reading the book together, which got her excited about cooking. The book even outlined ideas for jobs that little hands can do, which Sophie delighted in doing.
Go make it. Seriously. You’re crazy if you don’t.
Tomato Almond Pesto with Spaghetti
3/4 pound (about 2 1/2 cups) cherry tomatoes, very ripe and sweet
12 large fresh basil leaves
2 plump garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
1/3 cup of whole almonds, lightly toasted
1/4 teaspoon peperoncino, or to taste
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or to taste, plus more for the pasta
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound spaghetti (we used fettucini, long pasta you have on hand will work)
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano, freshly grated
- Rinse the cherry tomatoes and pat them dry. Rinse the basil leaves and pat them dry.
- Drop the tomatoes into the blender jar or food processor bowl, followed by the garlic cloves, almonds, basil leaves, peperoncino, and 1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt. Blend for a minute or more to a fine puree; scrape down the bowl and blend again if any large bits or pieces have survived.
- While the machine is running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream, emulsifying the puree into a thick pesto. Taste and adjust seasoning. (If you’re going to dress the pasta within a couple of hours, leave the pesto at room temperature. Refrigerate for longer storage, up to 2 days, but let it return to room temperature before cooking the pasta.)
- To cook the spaghetti, heat 6 quarts or water with 1 tablespoon salt to a boil in the large pot. Scrape all the pesto into a big warm bowl.
- Cook the spaghetti al dente, lift it from the cooking pot, drain briefly, and drop into the pesto. Toss quickly to coat the spaghetti, adding a ladle or tow of the pasta cooking water if needed. Sprinkle the cheese all over, and toss again. Serve immediately in warm bowls.
Serves 4 to 6
Kids Can: Wash the cherry tomatoes and basil and pat them dry; spoon the pesto into the cooked pasta; toss the pasta to coat with pesto; and add the grated cheese.
Reprinted with permission from Lidia Bastianich’s Lidia’s Family Kitchen: Nonna’s Birthday Surprise (Running Press, 2013).