From Scratch: Just give that 'green spaghetti' a try


Pasta with pesto Genovese may be ubiquitous in the rest of the United States now, but it hadn't yet "arrived" in York County when I tried serving it to my dinner guests.

Their reaction: "Ugh, green spaghetti."

I wish I could say they later tried and loved it, but they pushed their plates aside. That's a shame, since this vibrant no-cook sauce is perfect for the summertime.

Traditionally, pesto was made with a mortar and pestle — hence its name. Modern cooks use a blender or food processor.

Pesto only has six ingredients, so it's important to choose the best quality, beginning with the basil. Known as the kingly herb, it thrives in the summer.

Your best source is your garden or window box. If that isn't possible, fresh basil can be found in the supermarket "live" with its roots still attached.

High-quality extra virgin olive oil is a given.

More problematic are the pine nuts. If you can find any that are not from China, please let me know, as I have looked high and low in the local stores without success. In desperation, I asked a friend to send me some from New Mexico. Rather than risk the dreaded pine mouth syndrome associated with Chinese pine nuts, I recommend using chopped walnuts. They are more readily available and much cheaper.

For a well-rounded flavor, a combination of Parmesan and Romano works best. Even if you are a garlic lover, go easy. The prominent flavor should be the basil, not the garlic.

To begin, assemble the following ingredients:

Pesto Genovese

1 pound spaghetti or linguini

2 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed

1 teaspoon salt

1 or 2 cloves garlic, depending on their size

2 tablespoons pine nuts or chopped walnuts

3/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese or mixture of both

Since the sauce comes together in less than a minute, begin by putting on the water for the pasta.

Place the other ingredients in the jar of a blender. Right before the pasta is done, blend the pesto mixture into a smooth sauce.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the water. Toss the pasta with the pesto sauce. If the sauce seems too thick, thin with a little of the pasta water.

Serve immediately.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.