Wednesday, August 25, 2010

cilantro pesto pasta

I love cilantro. Quite frankly, I adore cilantro. If you've been reading for a while, you may remember that when I made chicken tikka masala, I was in love with the smell of diced cilantro on my fingers while I was cooking. This summer I can't seem to stop buying cilantro, whether we're at the Farmers Market, at the grocery store, and I'm sure if there was a roadside cilantro stand, I'd probably stop and buy it there too.

This has resulted in LOTS of salsa and guacamole and other dishes/sauces that use cilantro. Unfortunately, it starts going bad by the bunch in my fridge, and I am so sad when I have to toss it. As another bunch started to fade away into the abyss, and with two more waiting in the wings in the fridge to take it's place as "next cilantro to use," tonight I opted to get creative and try something new and good. What are two of my main loves that is? Pasta, and ... drumroll please... cilantro.

I did a little searching online for cilantro pesto recipes and found a ton -- which came as a total surprise to me. After a little combining and recombining -- a little of this and a little of that -- and ended up making something that most closely resembled regular pesto. Instead of pine nuts, which I had none of, I opted for walnuts for, well, a nutty flavor and texture. Also considered almonds, but walnuts seemed to go better with pesto. Don't ask why. Call it intuition?

Cilantro Pesto
1 bunch of cilantro
5 heaping teaspoons of pre-diced cloves garlic to taste (I bought garlic-in-a-jar, but this would likely equate to about 8 tsp garlic fresh)
1/2 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
3/4 cup walnuts
1 TBSP vinegar (I used white, but would use apple cider or white wine next time)
3/4 cup olive oil

1 box of pasta, cooked until slightly al dente

1/2 cup grated fresh parmesan
crushed walnuts
salt to taste
sliced tomatoes
balsamic vinegar

Load all non-pasta, non-garnish ingredients in a blender and blend.

And blend.

And blend some more. My poor blender was really working hard to earn its keep. Taking pity on the little blender that could, I turned the blender off.

And shook the contents.

And turned the blender upside down.

And stirred the contents with a knife.

Then it all blended nicely.

Mid blend -- cook the pasta. Or post-blend. Or pre-blend. Really, whatever works best for you.

I adore the pinwheel pasta, both for white cheddar mac and for this new recipe. Mostly because all of the pasta gets coated with sauce without having sauce collect and pool awkwardly in the middle of the pasta like it does in shells or penne. Sometime I'll go into how much I love pasta and love to eat it raw, and how I used to smuggle dry pasta into my room as a little girl, by using the convenient gaping hole in my blankie. A blankie that is still with us today. Whoops. Just went there. Now you know. I could contentedly eat pasta every day of the week.

Now to get the pesto out. That took some work. I'd have taken photos, but both hands were a little busy holding the blender container (I'm sure there's a word for it, but it's not coming to mind... pitcher?), and a spatula and pouring/scraping over a pan of cooked pasta. Then the mixture remnants got stuck under the blade. Waste not, want not. I got a fork and dug out... and ended up with cilantro pesto all over my forearms. Worth a photo I'm sure, but I'm not risking my iphone or my camera.

Though it can be hard to get the tail end of anything out. I love my blender. I especially love when lots of potentially messy ingredients can be combined into a single sealed container, whipped together on hi speed, and mashed into wonderfulness. And oh! so easy to clean. Spray down with the sink sprayer, rinse, spray down, rinse, fill half way with soapy water and blend until all "specks" are gone. Wipe down with sponge and dry!

Toss the pesto with the pasta, and dish up.

Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
Sprinkle with grated parmesan.
Top with crushed walnuts.
Garnish the plate with the tomatoes -- I personally like surrounding the plated pasta with tomatos; but I also like making pinwheels.
Salt to taste.


And if you have any great cilantro recipes for me to try, I'm game. I still have two bunches in the fridge, and, will in all likelihood, buy more this weekend. I can't stop myself!
Click here to learn more about cilantro.

Inspired by this? Looking for more inspiration? Check out Southern in My Heart, she showcases some great ideas!

I'm also linking to
really fun, creative ideas.


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