There is no better time of the year to take full advantage of nature’s bounty and…good fresh pasta. There are several available on the market today. However, I do long for Henry Lambert’s ground-breaking concept — launched in New York decades ago — called “Pasta & Cheese.” It was sensational to be able to go to a store featuring taleggio and gorgonzola (both rarities then) and revolutionary to encounter sheets of freshly made pasta that would be cut in front of you to your desired specs — fettuccine, pappardelle, etc. I believe the first store was on the upper east side and opened right after I learned to make my own pasta in Italy — the summer of 1978 — when I began drying my own freshly-made pasta on broomstick handles perched atop two chairs in the kitchen of Gracie Mansion! Life was nothing short of discovery back then. It was a time of innocence, gleaming new pasta machines in home kitchens, and pesto madness.
It was the delicious homemade Sicilian pesto that I had the other day at Arthur Schwartz’s home, that made me remember my own version of “pesto rosso” from Radically Simple: Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease. This pesto is unusual in that it is made with almonds and has fresh tomato in it. It hails from Trapani in Sicily and is known as pesto Trapanese. I hadn’t made it in awhile and ran home to do so! The secret, according to Arthur, was to use really good garlic. And I agree that it made all the difference in the world. He buys his at the Grand Army Plaza farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. The Linguine with Pesto Rosso, below, is my take on this famous dish, here made with ingredients gathered from the four corners of my refrigerator. It would be lovely to serve with my salad of Shaved Fennel with Parmigiano & Hot Pepper — to which I sometimes add tiny segments of fresh oranges. It will put some sunshine into this gray summer day.
This week I will be offering more 10-ten pasta dishes, perfect for summer entertaining so, stay tuned.
Linguine with Pesto Rosso
1 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 pint ripe grape tomatoes
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup whole almonds (with skins)
1 medium garlic clove
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
12 ounces fresh linguine
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Combine the parsley, basil, tomatoes, oil, almonds, garlic and Parmesan in a food processor. Add 1/3 cup of the pecorino and process until very smooth. Add salt and pepper. Transfer to a large bowl. Cook the pasta in the boiling water for 3 minutes, or until tender. Drain well and shake dry. Add the pasta to the pesto and toss thoroughly. Sprinkle with the remaining pecorino. Serves 4
Shaved Fennel with Parmigiano & Hot Pepper
This is an unusual starter to a hefty meal or a nice side salad for a summer pasta dinner. The little nubbins of cheese are unexpected. Add fresh orange segments if you wish.
1 large fennel bulb, about 1-1/2 pounds
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
large pinch red pepper flakes
4-ounce piece Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 big handfuls baby arugula
Trim the feathery fronds from the fennel bulb; chop to get 1/4 cup and set aside. Cut the fennel in half lengthwise and cut crosswise as thinly as possible. Place in a bowl. Add the oil, vinegar, pepper flakes, and salt. Break the cheese into very small pieces; add to the salad and toss. Stir in the arugula. Scatter chopped fronds on top. Serves 4