Shrimp Pesto Fettuccine, Thai Basil
This is the 16th day of the two of us living our lives without a dog. Skye is being adored and spoiled in San Francisco by the in-laws. I know this because I get spontaneous calls asking if he generally prefers chicken or turkey, and messages letting me know that they have been “cooking him some pork” for dinner sometimes. I won’t get into the daily brushing he gets or the physical check-up they scheduled. Humor aside, I miss him so much but am eternally grateful that I have such a wonderful and loving family.
Over the weekend, I realized that I can finally go on those hiking trails that do not allow dogs, free of guilt. My friend Kelly at work told me about one of her regular hikes, Temescal Canyon in the Pacific Palisades. It’s a 4-mile loop with 1,000 feet in elevation. At 7AM on Saturday, that was where I began my morning. As the sun came up and the clouds broke, I could see the entire LA from the coast to the buildings in downtown. It was breathtaking.
After the hike, I rewarded myself by visiting the farmer’s market and picking out a large bunch of gorgeous Thai basil to make pesto. On a not-so-related note, I also spotted these “cherriums”, a hybrid of cherries and plums, that looked very interesting…
The secrets to a great pesto? Yes, using the mortar and pestle produces a more moist and complex pesto, but also takes a lot more time. I used a food processor here, and will save the ‘mortar and pestle’ method for another time. Another easier tip is to use Thai basil leaves. When I visited Italy, a chef told me to try to find Thai basil for pesto because the fragrance and taste actually resemble the sweet or Genovese basil used in Italy more so than regular basil. Ever since my first time using Thai basil, I was convinced that it is true. Note: to tell Thai basil leaves apart from regular basil, just look at the stems. Thai basil has purple stems while regular basil has green stems.
- 1 bunch of Thai basil, leaves removed and rinsed (about 1 very packed cup of leaves)
- 1/4 cup of pine nuts
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and lightly pressed flat
- 3/4 tsp of sea salt (for pesto)
- 1 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, and more for searing shrimp
- 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 package of spinach fettuccine or other kind of pasta
- 16 pieces of shrimp, peeled and deveined
- Salt, pepper and red chili flakes for shrimp seasoning
- Lightly toast pine nuts until scented. Blend pine nuts and garlic in a large food processor (I use 7-cup). Add basil, cheese, salt, and lemon juice. Start the blending, and from the opening on the top, add oil in a slow, steady stream. Continue to let it blend until pesto is well blended.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When starting to boil, add generous amounts of kosher salt (about 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp per pound of pasta). Cook pasta according to package directions. I use Al Dente spinach fettuccine and the package recommends 3 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water before draining pasta.
- Rinse shrimp and pat dry between paper towels. Make sure they are completely dry so they sear nicely. Season shrimp with salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes if spice is desired.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is almost smoking, add shrimp (do not move shrimp once they are in the skillet until flipping). Cook shrimp for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes on each side.
- When pasta is done and pasta water is reserved, drain pasta. Add 1/8 cup of pasta water to pesto sauce and blend more. If pesto sauce is too thick, add a little more pasta water based on preference. Toss pasta with half of the fresh pesto sauce. Taste and add more pesto if needed.
- Serve pasta immediately, topped with shrimp. Keep leftover pesto in a mason jar or container in fridge for up to 3 days. Pesto is great with grilled meats and roasted vegetables.
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