Say that five times fast!
Oh, Pesto. Summer would not be summer without fresh pesto. Don’t you agree?
This is all that’s left from last night’s dinner. We all went back for seconds, maybe even thirds (shhh, don’t tell anyone)
As soon as we got Persian Basil at the market I knew I wanted to make pesto. I have a Sweet Basil plant on my balcony but Persian Basil is different. If you’ve never tried it, stop reading this post right now and go get some (then come back and make this pasta!). It has a wonderfully subtle lemony/spicy taste to it, which makes it perfect for a dish like this.
And tomatoes. Oh, tomatoes. I love summer produce. We’ve talked about how much I adore roasted tomatoes, right? If you’ve never thought to blend them right into your pesto, you’re definitely missing out. Don’t worry though, this recipe will fix that for you.
And if fresh tomatoes and basil weren’t enough, I added fresh ricotta cheese to the mix. The market gets its cheese from a local dairy and let me tell you, once you try fresh ricotta, you’ll never go back. I’ve warned you.
I also added sauteed cremini mushrooms, because why the heck not?
OK, OK, enough drooling. Time to cook!
PERSIAN BASIL & ROASTED TOMATO PESTO PASTA BAKE
Serves 6-8 (or 3-4 very hungry people)
1 lb Whole Wheat Chiocciole Pasta (or other pasta shape of your choice)
2 large Heirloom Tomatoes*, sliced
~1 lb Cremini Mushrooms, chopped
4 oz Persian Basil**, leaves removed from the stems
2 cloves Garlic
1 tsp Sea Salt (I used Garlic Sea Salt)
1 tsp Pepper
1 cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded and separated in two portions (I use this delicious one)
~1/2 cup good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus about a tablespoon for the pan
8 oz Ricotta Cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and roast your tomatoes. (You may want to do this the day before or the morning of and let the tomatoes sit in your fridge for a while. The leftover olive oil from roasting will mix with the tomato and create a nice little juice for the pesto).
When the tomatoes are done roasting, turn your oven down to 350 degrees.
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Heat ~1 TBSP of olive oil in a medium sauce pan, add mushrooms and saute until soft, around 5 minutes.
For the pesto, mix basil. garlic cloves, salt, and pepper in a food processor or blender until combined. Add 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese and mix again, scraping down the sides until all ingredients are incorporated. While the processor is running, stream about a 1/2 cup of the olive oil until desired consistency is reached. Add the roasted tomatoes and blend again. Taste with a spoon and die a little.
Mix the ricotta with the hot pasta and then add the mushrooms. Finally, pour in the pesto and mix until all the noodles are coated with sauce.
Pour the mixture into a baking dish and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese on top browns a bit. I turned my broiler on for the last 2-3 minutes to get a crispy top layer.
*I used local, organic heirloom tomatoes, but regular slicers will work just as well. Just make sure your tomatoes are ripe and juicy!
** You can probably find Persian Basil at your local farmers’ market. We get ours from a local farmer. If you can’t find it, however, regular Italian Sweet Basil is fine to use!
***I image this dish would be great as a cold pasta salad for the upcoming holiday weekend or any summer BBQ/picnic! Just skip the baking step and let sit in your fridge for a few hours to cool!