Wed 27 May 2009
I confess that I do not always feel extremely excited about cooking when I get home late. But late or not, I’m usually excited about eating. I always keep some kind of pasta – fresh or dried – on hand because it makes a fast, filling meal in a pinch (and, to be fair, my dad’s family is Italian and I will always think of pasta as comfort food). There are more or less 15 minutes built in to every pasta preparation, between readying the water and cooking the pasta itself. Recently, I started marking the prep time for other parts of the meal in relation to the time it takes the pasta to cook. That is, I know I’ve got something really fast in my sights when I can safely say “you can make [whatever it is] before the pasta it goes with has had a chance to cook!”
You can make this artichoke pesto before the pasta it goes with has had a chance to cook! See? Neat.
Honest to goodness, I threw together this little saucey wonder a few weeks ago after getting home sometime north of 9 p.m., weary and belly a’growling. It was absolutely delicious, especially when garnished with a few sliced campari tomatoes. Artichoke recipes generally garner favor with me, but this one brings something special to the table (oh, ouch, that one even hurts to type).
Kindly note, this type of pesto is not cooked or heated before it is added to the pasta. The residual heat from the noodles will warm it up just fine. I suppose, if you want to get technical, this isn’t so much cooking as mixing.
On the mixing – you will notice that I recommend a food processor. After owning one for a few years, I must say that it’s one of two kitchen electrics I deem critical to a well-functioning kitchen (the other being some form of electric mixer). There are many, many things, this sauce included, that you can throw together with the most minimal effort if you can get your hands on a food processor. Honestly, there are things I make now that I never bothered with in my pre-food processor days because they are simply too much trouble. Anything that involves cutting fat into flour (biscuits, pastry dough, pie crust, etc.) is a great example – takes several minutes by hand versus a few seconds by processor. I have a fantastic 7-cup model by Cuisinart, which I think is worth every penny (currently $99.95 at Amazon), and there are even less expensive models out there. Hands down, it’s the kitchen electric I use most.
In addition to pasta, this sauce tastes fantastic on toasted artisan bread or crackers. I also pulled off a lovely cold salad for lunch one day by mixing a few heaping spoonfuls of the pesto into a can of tuna and topping with avocados and tomatoes. The brightness of the artichoke and the tang of the lemon-garlic flavors complemented the tuna nicely.
Makes enough for 4 bowls of pasta, give or take, assuming you use a few heaping tablespoons per serving
1 can artichoke hearts (I prefer those packed in water and not marinated, but suit yourself)
2 cloves of garlic
½ cup olive oil
Juice from one hearty squeeze of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
4 or 5 mint leaves (optional)
Food processor (a blender will also work, though not as well)
- Peel the garlic
- Blitz artichokes and garlic
- Add the olive oil
- Blitz until combined
- Season as needed
Drain the artichoke hearts and add the contents of the can to your food processor. Peel the garlic and add the cloves to the processor bowl. Blitz the hearts and garlic together for 2 or 3 seconds until the artichokes are roughly shredded.
If your food processor has the capability to allow you to drizzle in liquid while the unit is turned on, do so here – turn it on (as opposed to the pulse setting) and slowly add the olive oil until the whole mixture is combined. If your food processor wasn’t designed that way (namely meaning it doesn’t have a little piece of the lid you can take out while the thing is running), add the oil in 2 or 3 additions.
Squeeze in the lemon juice and add a bit of salt and pepper. Blitz once more to combine and taste; adjust the seasonings as needed. If you are adding the mint leaves, toss them in here and blitz a few times until everything is well-combined, but not smooth like a smoothie.
- Stir a few spoonfuls of pesto into a bowl of hot pasta; garnish with sliced tomatoes and parsley
- Mix well with a can of drained tuna and garnish with tomatoes and avocado slices
- Spread thinly on toasted slices of baguette, artisan bread, or light crackers
- Scoop with your favorite chip
- Lick off your sneaky index finger