When making pasta at home there are two rules I live by. One: go for the good stuff; by that I mean I don’t bother with whole wheat, quinoa-, or bean-based options, as I’ve yet to find a brand that yields the same perfectly al-dente texture as pasta made with refined flour. And two: either serve it as a side or go heavy on the vegetables (or, ideally, both). Made this way, there’s plenty of satiating fiber and flavor to go around, without any feeling of sacrifice.
This pesto and summer vegetable number is no exception. An abundance of grilled eggplant and cherry tomatoes bulk it up, while bold, garlicky pesto ties it all together. Served hot, it’s a great stand-alone dinner; at room temperature, it makes for a lovely brown-bag lunch (the leftovers are particularly good, as far as pasta goes). Similarly, it would be a welcome addition to a backyard barbecue.
As written, it yields an extra cup of pesto perfect for dressing up scrambled eggs, spreading on a sandwich, or tossing with roasted vegetables. Unlike a standard Genovese-style pesto, this clever recipe sourced from the classic Silver Palate Cookbook calls for walnuts rather than pricey pinenuts. Garlic-heavy and bold, it has long been my go-to, ever since my step-grandmother Grenelle passed it along to me.
- For the pesto:
- 3 large or 4 small cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) walnuts, toasted
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 loosely-packed cups (3 ounces) basil
- 1 1/4 cups (3 1/8 ounces) parmesan, finely grated
- 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste
- For the pasta:
- 3 small eggplants or 1 large globe, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
- Neutral oil, such as grapeseed or rice bran
- Kosher salt
- About 3/4 pound short pasta, such as penne or bow ties
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 4-5 sprigs basil, cut into chiffonade
- Freshly-cracked black pepper, for finishing
- Make the pesto: Purée the garlic and walnuts in a food processor until a finely chopped. Add the olive oil and process until smooth. Add the basil in two batches, blending until smooth. Transfer the pesto base to a large mixing bowl.
- Fold in the parmesan, and 1 teaspoon salt. Seasoning to taste with pepper and additional salt as necessary.
- Grill the eggplant: Prepare a medium-high charcoal or gas grill.
- Brush the eggplant rounds on both sides with oil, sprinkle generously with salt, and arrange on the grill. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden-brown. Flip, cook for 2-3 more minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and slice into cubes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente; drain.
- Gently toss together the hot pasta, eggplant, and cherry tomatoes. Add the pesto to taste (I used about 1 cup, with about 1 cup leftover). Garnish with the basil chiffonade and a few grinds of black pepper. Serve hot or at room temperature.
I have a leftover globe eggplant from a meal I made last night (bought two but only ended up using one) and was thinking about making this recipe tonight for the family. However, my dad is what I like to call a “meat-itarian”, and is always hesitant to eat meals that don’t have some sort of meat involved. Do you have any suggestions? I was thinking chicken might pair well with the pesto, or maybe even pancetta, but if you have any other suggestions, I would love to hear them! Thanks!
Nicole | A Modest Feast says
Hi Jamie, good question! I definitely know some folks who follow a similar philosophy to your dad. You’re definitely on the right track with chicken; since you’ll already have the grill fired up for the eggplant, it’d be easy to grill some and serve it with the extra pesto. Some grilled shrimp (I like to skewer it for easier cooking: http://www.popsugar.com/food/Easy-Grilled-Shrimp-Lemon-Recipe-37964178), or skirt/hangar/flank steak would also be lovely. Hope y’all have a lovely dinner!