Pasta with Basil Walnut Pesto

I know you can use any herbs to make pesto, but I’m sticking to just basil, period.  Nothing can compare to the sweet-smelling basil when turned to paste along with other ingredients.  Here’s my “sweet” pesto recipe with pasta…that little bit of sweetness just reminds me Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.  So this for sure is one sweet treat for your loved ones this coming special day….enjoy!

Pesto is a very simple Italian herb sauce and is good on almost anything…top on pizza, spread on toasted baguettes for a pesto bruschetta and toss on cooked pasta.   You can freeze pasta but you would want to briefly blanch first the basil leaves in a salted boiling water and really completely dry in paper towels to retain basil’s bright color and fresh taste.  Spoon into ice-cube trays and freeze.  One rule on pesto though, never heat it, just toss with hot pasta or top on sauteed vegetables.

Basil Walnut Pesto
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed and rinsed in cold water (pat dry if freezing pesto)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon maple-flavored pancake syrup
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a blender or food processor, break toasted walnuts into small bits.  Add the garlic and basil leaves. Pour in half of the olive oil to loosen mixture.  Add rest of the ingredients and pulse until the mixture is fairly smooth and of paste consistency.

1 pound fettuccine (or any pasta), cooked al dente, drained and tossed with 1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup to 1 cup ricotta cheese

Sauteed Chicken and Vegetables
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, diced   roasted chicken chunks
1 cup green peas
1/2 lemon squeezed (1 teaspoon of juice added to pesto)
salt and pepper

Saute to heat and put in a bowl with cooked pasta and ricotta cheese.

Add the pesto sauce and sauteed chicken and vegetables; toss and mix well (may add a bit of pasta cooking liquid).  Cut some tomatoes and add them to the pasta.  Transfer to serving plate and sprinkle with fresh basil leaves and grated parmesan cheese.

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