About two months ago I bought a 5 pound caciocavallo cheese and hung it in the cellar to age. I've been dying to start to use this wonderful, nutty, spicy cheese ever since I fell in love with it in Italy. Well, I've finally started to cut slabs off and used them this week in our meals. I also was in the mood for pesto... I still had two frozen snack bags in the freezer from last year's harvest of basil. (I typically freeze washed and dried basil leaves and olive oil as a base for "winter pesto"). For this recipe I got our some of my frozen chopped basil leaves in olive oil and got started....
Pistachio Pesto Pasta with Caciocavallo
1 pound Cavatappi pasta
6 tablespoons frozen chopped basil leaves in oil (defrosted) - or 4 cups of fresh basil leaves
1 cup shelled pistachios
1-1/2 cups grated caciocavallo cheese - or picante provolone
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fine ground sea salt
1-1/2 cups cut pieces of heirloom tomatoes & asst' cherry tomatoes (halved)
1/2 cup black pitted olives
1 can (or small jar) of imported tuna packed in olive oil (use the oil)
Ciabatta for garlic bread
Start the water for the pasta as you work on the pesto. Use a large pot with a good handful of salt.
Put the basil leaves (fresh or frozen basil leaves... don't use dry), the olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, grated cheese and pistachios in the mixer and pulse until you get a moist paste texture. If the mix is too dry, add a bit more olive oil and mix again. The texture should be a paste, but not at all dry. Personally, I like some little chunks of nuts in my pesto, but blend a bit more if like it smoother.
When the water is boiling add your pasta, make a few turns with a large spoons so they don't stick, then cook until al dente. I like cavatappi for recipes like this because it holds the sauce really well.
Meanwhile, place half of the pesto mixture (this recipe makes enough pesto for two meals) in the bottom of a large pasta bowl. Add the tomatoes, tuna, olives and mix gently.
Make the garlic bread... any way you like (I make several versions of garlic bread and won't go into that here). What I made this time was really a tostato with chopped garlic, butter, some grated caciocavallo and a sprinkle of dried oregano on top... grilled under the broiler in the oven for 3 minutes.
Drain the pasta well then add to the pasta bowl and toss the ingredients up and over with a large spoon while turning the pasta bowl... you want to incorporate the pesto and other ingredients evenly throughout the bowl.
You can serve with the garlic bread, top off with more grated caciocavallo and have a bottle chianti or primativo with it.
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Copyright, Jerry Finzi, Grand Voyage Italy, All rights reserved