My colleague takes part in a community garden in Jamaica Plain where she grows all sorts of herbs and vegetables. I believe we are closing in on the basil season here in the northeast because yesterday she very generously offered to give me a gigantic amount of basil from her garden. And I mean a gigantic amount–I think she gave me nearly an entire bush! I have been wanting to make pesto for a while now, but I don’t have my own basil plant and I would have to buy about 25 of those plastic snap containers (you know how basil is sold in grocery stores?) to get a half cup of pesto. A free bush of basil is almost exciting as dark chocolate Reese’s peanut butter cups! I couldn’t wait to make pesto!
However, basil is so summery to me. I wanted to put an autumn spin on our dinner. It immediately clicked on how I could do it: Use PUMPKIN SEEDS instead of PINE NUTS! Perfect. I also wanted to incorporate some squash and fresh pasta. Using these ideas and ingredients I sequestered myself in the kitchen and I pretended to be on Top Chef. (I am really enjoying that show lately–I love all of the discussion about “notes” and “building flavor.”)
The result was awesome. This was one of those meals that while I was eating it I got super excited and giddy! It was so delicious. Not just delicious but so much more delicious than I ever expected. (Don’t you love when that happens?) And it was easy and didn’t take very long to make. My favorite part was the contrast of the mild creamy squash sauce with the sharp garlicky saltiness of the pesto. They really worked well together. The fresh chewy pasta was a major asset as well–it really jived with the creamy squash sauce. The risk of using all of these ingredients, which could have been overkill, really paid off. And this made for a pretty fall plate. The green of the spinach pasta with the orange sauce on top was very cool.
Although I tried to keep track of my methods and ingredients, I didn’t measure everything. If you want to try to replicate this feel free to email me. That said, it was pretty easy and I don’t think you could go wrong with such a delicious cast of flavor characters.
Pumpkin Seed Pesto and Squash over Fresh Pasta:
- 1 pound fresh spinach pasta (If you are feeling ambitious, make your own! I bought some from Whole Foods for $4.99)
Pumpkin Seed Pesto
- several bunches of fresh basil
- 3 cloves garlic
- ~3/4 cup fresh shredded parmesan reggiano cheese
- 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
- ~ 3/4 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups squash (you can use canned or fresh)
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3/4 cup chicken broth (use vegetable broth instead and this dish is vegetarian)
- 1.5 teaspoons nutmeg
- a handful of fresh shredded parmesan reggiano cheese
Boil water for pasta. Be sure to add salt to the water.
Make the pesto
Toast pumpkin seeds in a large pan over medium heat.
In a food processor chop basil, garlic, cheese, and all but two tablespoons of the pumpkin seeds. While food processor is running, pour olive oil into food processor in a steady stream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Make squash sauce
In the same pan in which you toasted the pumpkin seeds, cook squash, milk, and chicken broth and stir together until smooth and creamy. Add nutmeg and cheese. Continue to stir until heated through and cheese has melted.
Add pasta to boiling water. Cook until done and drain. Immediately add pasta to pan containing squash sauce and toss to coat pasta.
Portion pasta into individual bowls. Scoop about two tablespoons of pesto on top of each serving. Garnish with reserved pumpkin seeds. Serve immediately.