pesto besto: basil almond pesto pasta & cheesy garlic crack bread
My friend Preeti and I have a long-standing tradition (long-standing as in we did it a couple of times last year) called "Friday Food" where we get together and cook on a Friday afternoon. It's a lot of fun, very relaxing, and we get Pinterest-worthy food out of it. We've tried to borrow from a different nationality each week; in the past we've made Asian-style lettuce wraps, Japanese gyoza and sesame noodles, Thai curry, and Indian paneer butter masala.
But now it's our senior year, Preeti's graduating early, and we both don't have much to do on Fridays, so we're getting back into the swing of things. We wanted to return to culture food and decided on my favorite...Italian! Although I don't know if cheesy garlic bread screams "authentic Italian". But it was delicious, so no regrets.
Pesto is one of those dishes that's super-easy, but looks and sounds impressive. Which, coincidentally, is my cooking philosophy. I like basil but I've never been crazy about pine nuts, so we searched for a recipe that used almonds instead and found this one from The Little Ferraro Kitchen. We made some cheese and garlic crack bread from Recipe Tin Eats.
The pesto was perfect—light, fresh, and not overbearing. And it was quick. It literally took maybe two minutes to prepare, so we decided to make the garlic bread first so it would be hot and ready when the pesto was.
And the garlic bread. UGH. Probably some of the best garlic bread I've ever had. And I consider myself a garlic bread enthusiast. It was insanely good. Not to mention very pretty (it pays to get your recipes off Pinterest). It's cut into diamonds, so you can just tear off chunks and the mozzarella cheese stretches really nicely and every side is coated in garlic butter. It haunts me.
CHEESY GARLIC CRACK BREAD
Yields: 8-10 servings (again, very subjective...I could've eaten the entire thing myself)
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
1 loaf crusty bread, preferably sourdough or French
¾ cup mozzarella (we used a block instead of the shredded kind, and you'll see why)
Parmesan cheese (for garnish)
1 stick unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ tsp salt
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Note: Use pre-cooked bread, the crustier, the better because it'll crisp up nicely in the oven. The employee at Trader Joe's was very keen on helping me pick the right kind of bread, so we ended up picking a cute little round loaf with a nice crust on top.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Melt butter and mix in 2 cloves garlic, ¾ tsp salt, and 1 tbsp parsley.
Cut the bread on a diagonal into 1-inch diamonds, but don't cut all the way through the bread (think of it as scoring it, not slicing it).
Use your fingers to pry open each seam and spread the garlic butter into the spaces. Cut the cheese into slices and place one into each crack. We opted to use the block instead of the shredded kind because it was stretchier and it. Was. Worth. It.
Wrap with foil and bake for 15 minutes until the cheese has mostly melted, then unwrap and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for five more minutes more to melt the Parmesan and make the bread nice and crusty.
Serve with pasta.
BASIL ALMOND PESTO
Yields: One pot of pasta
Prep: 2 minutes
Cook: 2 minutes
2 cups fresh basil, chopped
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup whole almonds
¼ cup grated Parmesan
1 clove garlic
A pinch coarse sea salt
A pinch black pepper
In a food processor, pulse the ¼ cup whole almonds and 1 clove garlic until everything is ground well.
Add 2 cups basil, ¼ cup Parmesan, and ¾ cup olive oil, and pulse together until combined but not too smooth.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Boil one pound of pasta with some olive oil and salt. When al dente, remove from heat, strain, and stir in the pesto sauce.
This was such a good recipe. I'd recommend it to literally anyone, especially people who think they can't cook. It's a great recipe to trick people into thinking you're more talented at cooking than you actually are. Or for hosting fancy dinner parties.