Pesto Pasta with Shrimp and Tomatoes

Pesto sauce. So simple to make, so rewarding to eat. You should try it on many dishes. It will give a more elegant taste to what you’re having. Not just by association, but by the bold flavor. The tomatoes are a nice fresh addition, & the shrimp, goes so very well with pesto.

Before you bolt out though, I want to let you know that pine nuts can be hard to find, & they certainly are pricey. But don’t let that sway you. The taste in making it right, is very important, & quite worth the investment.

Thank you Lori, in suggesting that I note when something isn’t quite as common in the real world to get, &/or is a bit pricey. I was able to find bulk pine nuts at Safeway, because I didn’t drive up to Albertson’s to look for them.

I do not suggest substituting them with walnuts, almonds or anything else, as that is going to change the dynamic of the flavor. You can, of course, but it won’t be traditional pesto.

You can use a couple jars of pre-made pesto sauce, or (God Forbid) the packaged kind (just add some extra parm & EVOO). It’s about the combination of the ingredients that make the dish.

I want to give you a rule of thumb for measuring basil, because many people grow their own, or don’t have stores that sell it in bunches. Pesto isn’t as popular in the PNW as it was back east when I grew up. This site gives a great conversion for you.
http://www.howmuchisin.com/produce_converters/basil

Anyhow, making fresh pesto is pretty darn easy & straightforward.

Basil time saver postp

Pesto

2 Cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves
2/3 Cup grated Parmesan cheese (NOT that cellulose packed stuff please)
1/2 cup olive oil as close as you can get to the real stuff
2 cloves garlic-powdered is fine
4 TBSP roasted pine nuts minced

I like to mince up the pine nuts first, so I can get a better measure. Put them in your blender & pulse so they are closer to a powder. Set aside. Put the Parmesan cheese in the blender & give it a few buzzes. Set that aside. Chiffonade, chop or mince your basil. You can get some precut basil, that’s fine. I suggest as fresh/moist as possible, but dried basil is fine, once it’s rehydrated or moistened.

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The “trick” is to drizzle the olive oil in slowly as it whirls, catching each stage of the. . . .  yeah only on those cooking shows, not in real life.

Put the ingredients in the blender, in layers, that is, stacked. Oil, basil, nuts garlic, cheese, oil. ‘Liquify’ is your friend, you aren’t going to bruise the basil, it isn’t that delicate. You want to mince it as small as possible, so that there are bazillions of tiny little basil pieces to dance on your tongue. The goal is as close to liquid as possible.

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Scrape the sides, & keep whirling it, till the basil is mini, tiny, & it (all) looks like a light, but bright green.

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Put that in a sauce pan on low. Simmer is good. Be sure not to burn it. You can use a double boiler or one of those diversion/spreader plates to make sure the pan is evenly heated.            Or just hope for the best.

Keep your olive oil handy, sometimes adding a little extra to keep it smooth. We aren’t making a paste, it’s a sauce. You can set it aside while you prep the rest of the dish, you want it warm, not burnt.

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Pasta & the rest
12 oz (penne) pasta
3 Cups chicken broth
2 Cups or about 50 pre-cooked shrimp rinsed
1 package cherry or grape tomatoes halved

as garnish
1/4 cup fresh julienned basil leaves-parsley is fine too
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Splash of white wine (per plate) cook’s discretion

I took some pictures to show you how utterly annoying it is to “place your cherry tomatoes under a lid & slice them all at once”. This is another cooking show fluff piece. Tomatoes don’t hold still for slicing. At least, none of the cherry or grape tomatoes that I get will.
The best I have come up with is, what I’ve been doing for years. Cut a few of them in half at a time & be done with it faster. Actually the best was to have the prep cook do it, but that’s another kitchen.

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If you want to reduce the acid (bite) taste, remove the seeds from the tomatoes after you cut them. It’s a labor, but does reduce the acid bite. I have done both, but it takes a very long time to seed a container of grape or cherry tomatoes. I made it this time, with out coring the tomatoes. I like the extra zing.
Insider’s tip to note: If you order this someplace, & it doesn’t look like half round tomatoes, they used seeded & cored tomatoes (hopefully at least Roma).

Cook the pasta in the chicken broth (no kidding). Add the defrosted & rinsed shrimp to this at the end. Drain.

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IF your shrimp is raw (not cooked), drain the pasta into a fresh pan, reserving the broth. Boil your shrimp till they are (pink) up to temp (165°F to serve). I generally use pink plus five minutes boiling.
Drain. Do not reserve or keep shrimp water. Devein (that little black line), remove shell, & tail if needed.
You can use a neat little deveining tool if you’d like. After having deveined a few bazillion pounds of raw shrimp by hand, I got “used” to doing it with out. You can have running cold water in a large sink or basin, or you can use a super humgungus bowl of ice water. . . yeah, that’s why I buy the one’s that are already done too.

 

The rest comes in add steps. Add it all & toss. Some people like this dish cold, some people like it warm or hot. I “guess” it qualifies as a salad if it’s cold. If you’re going for cold, cool everything separately first. Use a long flat sheet pan for each item & stick it in the fridge. Add the tomatoes last & toss again-yummy!

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Garnish with greens first, then cheese, add a splash of wine. Serve.

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Notice, I did not include any salt or pepper to this. With the chicken broth & Parmesan, it is plenty salty, & pepper can be added to taste after serving.

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