pesto pasta

Something’s going screwy with my Olympic fever.


I am, obviously, watching the Olympics although in the ordinary course of my life I don’t give a flying fuck about alpine skiing. Yet I’ve also become strangely emotional –

excuse me, I’m choking on a piece of popcorn

– while watching, and so far have gotten teary-eyed at (1) skiing; (2) that Visa commercial with Dan Jansen about his dead sister; and (3) a Walmart commercial that I don’t even remember any more. Let’s hope I can make it through the women’s snowboard half-pipe. Which, FYI, I also don’t ordinarily give a crap about. I just hope I don’t cry at Bob Costas, because I don’t know how I would live with myself if that happened.

I needed a fast dinner tonight so we could eat before Brian headed out to a show; the ability to relax with this post a little and indulge my Olympic fever is just a fortuitous side effect. Ain’t nothing faster than pesto – and basil is just SO GOOD in the middle of winter – so tonight was Mario Batali’s spicy hazelnut pesto with goat cheese from Mario Batali Simple Italian Food: Recipes from My Two Villages

pesto fixins

You know what commercial doesn’t make me cry? The McDonald’s commercial that insinuates that all the athletes are just hanging around the McDonald in the athlete’s village snorting down piles of McNuggets. Yes, McDonald’s, we all believe that Olympic-caliber athletes are horsing the Big Macs. I’m going to go on record as saying that not even Michael Phelps is loading up on the snack wraps.

(I have to fill this post with lots of meaningless blather because it’s really hard to pontificate at length about pesto, at least in the middle of winter when I can’t wax rhapsodic about the gorgeous fresh basil fresh from the garden I’d be using.)

Anyway, I chucked the basil into the FoPro along with hazelnuts, garlic, salt and some cayenne (which was supposed to be red pepper flakes, but I was all out) and whizzed it with the olive oil. Yes, you are reading correctly – there is no cheese in the pesto, which feels a little like…anathema. I get that the pasta will ultimately be all goat cheesed out, but I still don’t feel quite right about pesto without parm.


Still, it did look good; a little chunkier than a pine-nut pesto but appropriately green and unctuous looking. And yes, I know the food blogging world is over the word “unctuous,” but I don’t care just like I don’t normally care about ice hockey, about which I care EVEN LESS than alpine skiing. It was unctuous. Deal with it.

I should have put the pot of water for the pasta on while I was making the pesto, which would have made sense, but I, you know, didn’t. So I spent 15 minutes milling around waiting for water to boil, willing myself not to have a snack because I skipped lunch and was effing HUNGRY at this point. It finally boiled, which water is wont to do when put over high heat, and I dumped in half a bag of the fancy pants imported-from-Napoli pasta that Fresh Direct had on sale this week. Eleven minutes to al dente, said the package, which also told me that this might be a few minutes longer than the cooking time for normal penne, but that good things take more time and I would understand all when I tasted their magical pasta. Thanks, bag.

FYI, I haven’t teared up again since that Walmart commercial, so things are looking better on the Olympic fever front.

Once the penne were cooked and drained, I tossed them with the goat cheese – two adorable nubbins of Coach Farm, as directed by Mario – and stirred in the pesto; I didn’t think I’d need the whole cup of pesto the recipe made, but I did.


This was some hearty pasta. Naples does not fuck around with its pasta; it was perfectly al dente and chewy and – to use another hated word – toothsome.

It just was. Toothsome pasta, covered in unctuous pesto. Oh, yes.

The hazelnuts were a nice switch-up in the pesto, which was more aggressively nutty than I find pine-nut pesto to be. It also didn’t grind up as smoothly, so there was a lot of texture to make this more interesting than your standard pesto dish. The down-on-the-farm flavor of the goat cheese lent a background tang to the spicy pesto and also helped round out the flavor. It was good, and I’ll definitely give it another try in the summer with real basil. I don’t know what I was thinking.

Now if you’ll excuse me my Olympic fever is acting up, so I’ve gotta take a dose of men’s long program figure skating.