[Ed note: In the video above, Lynne demonstrates a variation on the below recipe; the video variation does not involve cooking the onions. Pick your preference. This recipe is meant to be easily adapted to your taste.]
I watched a cook on a horse farm in Umbria make a sauce right on her cutting board with wild chives she picked just outside the back door. Mincing everything may not follow traditional pesto technique which calls for crushing in a mortar, but I like the idea of this fast sauce made on a cutting board. Adjust the herbs with what you find at the market. Try this over rice and with couscous.
6 quarts salted boiling water
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large garlic cloves
1 tightly-packed cup of coarsely chopped chives
3 tightly-packed tablespoons fresh basil
1 tightly-packed tablespoon fresh spearmint
1/2 medium red onion
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 pound perciatelli or other robust string pasta,
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) freshly grated medium-aged sheep cheese, Pecorino dell’Umbria, Pecorino Toscano, American artisan-made sheep cheese, or domestic Stella Fontinella, or young Cacio di Roma
1. Bring water to a boil. Meanwhile pile the salt on a chopping board. Crush garlic into it with the side of a large knife. Chop fine. Chop in the herbs and half the onion until minced very fine. Then coarsely chop in pine nuts. Blend with 2 tablespoons oil right on the board, seasoning to taste.
2. Fine chop remaining onion. In a large skillet, heat the 2 teaspoons oil, adding the onion and saute to soften it. Cook pasta at a fierce boil, stirring often, to tender but still firm to the bite.
3. Drain pasta. Scrape up the chopped mixture from the cutting board into the saute pan. Warm for only a few seconds over medium heat to let flavors blossom -- do not cook. Add pasta off the heat, tossing with the pesto and the cheese. Taste again for seasoning and serve hot. Wine: A full-bodied Umbria white like Lungarotti’s Torre di Giano, Castello della Sala’s Cervaro della Sala, or Bigi’s Torricella Orviet
* * *
Adapted from The Italian Country Table (Scribner 1999) by Lynne Rossetto Kasper copyright 1999 Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Each week, The Splendid Table brings you stories that expand your world view, inspire you to try something new and show how food brings us together. We rely on you to do this. And, when you donate, you'll become a member of The Splendid Table Co-op. It's a community of like-minded individuals who love good food, good conversation and kitchen companionship. Splendid Table Co-op members will get exclusive content each month and have special opportunities for connecting with The Splendid Table team.
Donate today for as little as $5.00 a month. Your gift only takes a few minutes and has a lasting impact on The Splendid Table and you'll be welcomed into The Splendid Table Co-op.