Do you like pesto? What about a spicy pesto? Perfect. Who says you need tomato sauce. One of my favorites ways to eat pasta is with pesto. I like to add diced grilled chicken breast to make it a complete meal.
Supporting our local farmers with basil grown in Brooklyn.
This pesto is different from other pestos because the ingredients are roughly chopped into a paste rather than pureeing it into a thin, oily pesto. You can still see bits of basil, garlic, and almonds.
The secret to this pesto is all in the pasta water. Pasta water contains glutens from the pasta that helps the pesto stick to the penne.
Spicy Sicilian Pesto with Penne
adapted from Molto Batali
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1 1/2 garlic cloves
1 jalapeno pepper, cored and seeded
1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
3 cups penne pasta
Using a food processor, add the basil, mint, garlic, jalapeno, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, and almonds. Pulse 3 times to roughly chop the ingredients. Add the oil and pulse 4 to 5 times. The pesto should look like a thick paste instead of a pureed or thinned out mixture. Add 2 tablespoons of pecorino cheese and pulse 1 time to mix the cheese into the pesto. Season with kosher salt to taste. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the instructions on the package. One minute before the pasta is finished cooking, ladle 2 tablespoons of the pasta water over the pesto. This will thin out the pesto a bit and allow the pesto to coat the pasta nicely.
Drain the pasta in a colander. Transfer the pasta to the bowl with the pesto. Gently toss the pasta until it is coated with the pesto. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of cheese over the pasta and serve.