When I told Richard that I would be making this pesto to serve our visiting friends Friday evening, he responded with eyebrow-raised doubt: "You know, I've never made pesto before, Dana," with a grand emphasis on "I." Besides breaking my cardinal rule of entertaining, which is that one should never try a new recipe for the first time with guests at the table, I was also breaking his unspoken rule of entertaining: "I do the cooking. You set the table. Make a salad if you like." Hey, don't judge, it works (well) for us, usually. But, alas, summer has arrived & during summer I sometimes feel a renewed sense of domesticity & get the urge to do things like clean closets, hang laundry, and prepare meals.
I wish you could have seen his face when he noticed the dusty Krups food processor on the kitchen counter: "Where's the mortar and pestle? It's pesto you're making after all. What do you intend to do with this pesto?" I assured him that I had permission from an Italian, an Italian in Genova -- the Italian city known for pesto -- permission to use the food processor. To his credit, he did not put up much of a fight with me. Clearly not convinced, he escaped out back and shared a long, tall spritz with a neighbor. Maybe they had two.
With three thriving basil plants and a plethora of leaves calling to be harvested, I set about making my first-ever pesto. Though the recipe is a bit ambiguous with amounts like "handful" and "a little," & thus frightening for a novice pesto-maker like me, I quickly realized that it's because it just doesn't matter. Add as much or as little as you like & all will be well at the end. I substituted a 20 month grana padano, a locally-made hard cheese, for the parmesan, and did add a bit of pecorino, as suggested; both of these are things we generally have on hand in our fridge. Oh, for the love of pecorino!
The end result was just scrumptous. I'm quite certain that I could have simply served it straight up on a toasted rustic bread of some sort; instead, I went for pasta. This is when Richard took over in the kitchen. He mixed some of the pesto with still-warm penne and then followed with mozzarella and cherry tomatoes (from my garden). The mozzarella melted just a bit, and we later served the pasta at room temperature. It would be just as good, maybe even better, served chilled.
We ate the entire bowl. My friend Mark declared that this is his new favorite pasta dish; trust me, the man has eaten his fair share of pasta in his life. It is definitely a great choice for a warm summer evening.