A Pesto that Walnut Fail

Pasta is alternately a cruel temptation, a comfort, an easy out, a delight… It’s hot., but can easily be served cold. It’s enormously versatile. It requires, at least, water and a splash of butter, maybe a bit of cheese and some pepper; but pasta will also support a hearty ragù, delicate greens, tart tomatoes, and spiced mussels. Most importantly it’s stuffed with carbs. The process of making pasta, which we won’t explore at the moment but which is – don’t you worry – on its way eventually, is one of those pleasurably meditative tasks we love: labor-intensive and ultimately rewarding. In the case of an impromptu dinner with friends, we prefer the quick-and-dirty Trader Joe’s 9-minute organic spaghetti version (see previous references to modern womanhood, viz. working hard for the money). Whether you made your own or, more likely, pulled a half-opened package from the top shelf of your pantry, this quick pesto and juicy garlic grilled shrimp will satisfy your guests’ appetites.

There are some curious gaps in my culinary knowledge. While I have ample experience baking cakes, roasting root vegetables, and broiling steaks, I had never made pesto before. How a food-obsessed lady like me has managed to avoid it this long is a mystery. When I revealed this to my blog partner, she laughed and insisted I take over the food processor. Having gotten a chance to use my own hands to drizzle the olive oil and smash basil leaves into the bowl, I can report that it is indeed a laughably easy process. More importantly, the herbal scent and spiciness of fresh garlic and basil leaves is too good to miss. I licked a little off the end of my spoon and had to close my eyes to savor the moment. The incorporation of walnuts adds body and nuttiness to balance the sharply powerful basil and garlic, resulting in an immensely flavorful pesto.

The shrimp were an inspired addition; tossed with oil and chopped garlic, they were grilled to a juicy plumpness that I had nearly forgotten was possible. Occasionally my descriptions can come off a little grandiose and exaggerated, but I am sincere when I say that these shrimp were heavenly. Bursting with each bite, tossed with the pesto and topped with a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan, they reminded us of what fresh, summer pasta dishes are all about.

First We Eat’s Walnut Pesto
Serves 6-8

  • 2 lbs Trader Joe’s Organic Spaghetti  (or whatever pasta you prefer…or make!)
  • 10 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 1/2 Cup Walnuts
  • 3/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 4 Cups Fresh Basil Leaves, packed
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Fresh Ground Pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil while you prep your pesto ingredients. Combine the garlic, walnuts, basil, olive oil, Parmesan, salt & pepper in you food processor and blend until all ingredients are well incorporated. Once your water is boiling, add your pasta and cook per the instructions on your pasta’s packaging.

Once your pasta is done cooking, drain and combine with your pesto sauce, top with the grilled garlic shrimp and serve immediately!

Grilled Garlic Shrimp (First We Eat)
Serves 6

  • 30 Large Tiger Prawns, shelled & de-veined
  • 12 Cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Fresh Ground Pepper

In the meantime, peel and de-vein your shrimp leaving the tail. Put in a prep bowl with your chopped garlic, olive oil, salt & pepper and let sit for at least 15 minutes. During this time you can pre-heat the grill to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the grill is hot and your shrimp have marinated, put the shrimp onto the grill (careful not to lose any through the grates!) and grill for about 3 minutes per side until shrimp turn a beautiful orange and are cooked through. Enjoy!

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