Fusilli with Almost Sicilian Arugula Pesto, Potatoes, and Peas
Serves 3 to 4
Pesto, peas, and potatoes not only start with the letter “P” but are complement each other beautifully in this traditional earthy pasta dish. Twirly little nubs of fusilii pasta have a knack for grabbing onto the dark green pesto that has an extra kick from a pesto that borrows a few elements (almonds and a touch of chile pepper) from Sicilian pesto to enhance a dish with Northern Italian sensibilities. In the summer substitute fresh green beans for the frozen sweet peas.
Fresh basil leaves can be very gritty; it’s easiest to cover them with cold water and soak the leaves for 10 minutes, occasionally swishing around the leaves to release any sand. Remove the leaves and shake any water off, then drain away the gritty water.
1/2 cup sliced, blanched almonds
1 green chile pepper, jalapeño or serrano
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup basil leaves, firmly packed
1 cup small, young arugula leaves, washed, spun dry and firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons or more extra virgin olive oil (see note for leaner pesto)
2 ripe roma tomatoes, seeds removed
Pasta and vegetables
1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch cubes
10 ounces fusilli or penne pasta
2 cups frozen peas (preferably petit pios, see Ingredient Glossary page XX) or 1/2 pound fresh green beans, ends trimmed and sliced into 2 inch pieces
Freshly cracked pepper
Chickpea Parmigiano (page XX) for sprinkling, optional
1. Prepare the pesto first: in a food processor pulse all of the ingredients except for the nuts into a thick, smooth paste. Add the nuts and pulse them into the pesto; a slightly gritty texture is best. Taste the pesto and add more salt if necessary.
2. Cook the potatoes and pasta: fill a large pot with 4 quarts of cold water and add the potatoes. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and boil the potatoes for 10 minutes or until they are tender but not mushy.
3. Stir the salt into the water, then add the pasta. Cook the pasta until almost al dente, about 8 minutes (always check the package of the pasta you’re using for the exact times). Stir in the peas or green beans and cook for another 2 minutes, then drain but keep about 2 tablespoons of water in the pot. Return the pasta and vegetables to the pot.
4. Add the pesto to the pot, a few twists of black pepper, and stir well with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to coat everything with the pesto. To serve, mound the pasta into a large pasta serving bowl or into individual serving bowls. If desired, pass around a small bowl of Chickpea Parmigiano (page XX) to be sprinkled on top of individual servings just before eating.