Since I am always interested in the history of a particular dish or food, I had to find out some background on pesto’s origins. According to The Oxford Companion to Food, it is a specialty of the Italian province of Liguria, particularly its capital city, Genoa. In her Summer Cooking cookbook, Elizabeth David says “this famous sauce is eaten by the Genoese with all kinds of pasta, gnocchi and as a flavoring for soups.” Apparently the basil grown in Liguria is said to taste better than from any other location. I’d be willing to take a trip there to test that theory!
Other than basil, pesto’s main ingredients are Parmesan or pecorino cheese, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil, but there are many variations, including subbing walnuts or almonds for the pine nuts and parsley for the basil. I have been known to play around with ingredients that I have on hand, ending up with all kinds of flavor combinations. Since Elizabeth David also mentions this in her book, I think it is ok!
This is an easy weeknight recipe, and would be just as good with other vegetables, such as broccoli or tomatoes.
Turkey Pasta with Pesto
- Pesto (recipe below)
- 2 cups uncooked rigatoni (or a similar shape – I used penne)
- 2 cups ¼-inch zucchini slices
- 1/3 cup chopped onion
- 1 medium carrot, cut into julienne strips
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 3 cups chopped turkey or chicken
- Prepare pesto. Cook pasta, drain and set aside.
- Sauté vegetables in a nonstick skillet over med-high heat until zucchini is crisp-tender, about 3-4 min.
- Stir in turkey, heat until warmed through, about 3 min.
- Stir in pasta and pesto; toss until well mixed.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp plain yogurt
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp pine nuts
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 1 cup firmly packed basil leaves
- Place all ingredients in blender.
- Cover and blend on medium speed, stopping occasionally to scrape sides, until almost smooth, about 2 min.