Tag Archives: fresh basil

Pesto Alla Genovese and Italian Marinated Grilled Chicken

Genoa, Italy is the birthplace of this dish. It traditionally is made in a mortar and pestle of nothing more than basil, pine nuts, cheese, garlic, salt and olive oil, emphasis on the basil. And to follow that tradition, we did the same. This was perfect at summer’s end because we had a plethora of fresh basil in our herb garden.

Good quality cheese is essential for a rich, full-flavored pesto. Seek out true Italian Parmesan cheese. In place of pecorino sardo, don’t use pecorino Romano, which is too strong. The best substitute is Manchego, a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese, one we love and typically have on hand.

Pesto Pasta

While you may be tempted, don’t toast the pine nuts. In Italy, the pine nuts for pesto are used raw. And don’t add all the ingredients at once to the food processor (or mortar if using). Adding them in stages ensures the pesto has the correct consistency and texture, and that it won’t end up thin and watery, the result of over-processing.

Orecchiette is the perfect pasta choice because all of that creamy pesto nestles into the cupped areas.

Using a mortar and pestle creates a luxurious sauce with a rich, deep flavor and a beautiful, silky texture that’s superior to what a food processor can do. Yes, it takes a bit longer and gives your arms a workout, but the reward of the best pesto you’ve ever eaten is sooo worth it. (FYI, the cheeses will have to be ground in a small food processor beforehand.)

If for some reason you cannot locate, or happen to dislike pine nuts, you can replace them with macadamias, walnuts, almonds or pecans. To store pesto, press a piece of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate for up to three days. After that, leftovers can be frozen in a sealed container.

Pesto Alla Genovese

  • Servings: Yields 1 cup
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1¾ oz. parmesan cheese (without rind), chopped into rough 1-inch pieces
  • 1 oz. pecorino sardo cheese (without rind), chopped into rough 1-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • Kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2½ oz. (about 5 cups lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 12 oz. orecchiette pasta, cooked al dente

Directions

Food Processor

  1. In a food processor, process both cheeses until broken into rough marble-sized pieces, about 10 seconds, then pulse until they have the texture of coarse sand, 5 to 10 pulses, scraping the bowl as needed. Transfer to a small bowl.
  2. In the food processor (or with a mortar and pestle), combine the pine nuts, garlic and ¾ teaspoon salt. Process until a smooth, peanut butter–like paste forms, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl as needed.
  3. Add the cheeses and about ½ of the oil and process until mostly smooth, 10 to 20 seconds, scraping the bowl as needed; the mixture should hold together when pressed against the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. Using a chef’s knife, roughly chop the basil, then add to the food processor. Pulse about 10 times, scraping the bowl several times, until the basil is finely chopped and well combined with the cheese mixture.
  5. Add the remaining oil and pulse just until incorporated, about 2 pulses. The pesto should be thick, creamy and spreadable.
  6. Meanwhile cook the pasta as directed on the package for al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water then drain the pasta.
  7. Add a couple tablespoons of pesto to bottom of serving dish, top with pasta, stir. Continue adding pesto and cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stir until dish is creamy. (You won’t need to use all of the reserved cooking water.)

Mortar and Pestle

  1. In a small food processor, grind the cheeses until the consistency of coarse sand, set aside.
  2. Crush the garlic, salt and pine nuts in a mortar with the pestle, smashing and grinding until a sticky, ever-so-slightly chunky, beige paste forms.
  3. Add basil leaves, a handful at a time, and pound and grind against the walls of the mortar. Continue until all basil leaves have been crushed to fine bits.
  4. Add both cheeses, then slowly drizzle in olive oil (it helps to have another person do this), working it into the pesto with the pestle until a fairly smooth, creamy, emulsified, sauce forms.
  5. Meanwhile cook the pasta as directed on the package for al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water then drain the pasta.
  6. Add a couple tablespoons of pesto to bottom of serving dish, top with pasta, stir. Continue adding pesto and cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stir until dish is creamy. (You won’t need to use all of the reserved cooking water.)

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Adapted from recipe by Courtney Hill from Milk Street

Italian Marinated Grilled Chicken

In a pinch I have used bottled Italian dressing as the marinade for chicken, but nothing compares to homemade. If you can, use fresh herbs, however dried is also an option. Use a combination of both white and dark meat if you prefer. It’s best to cut your chicken breast halves in half again so that all pieces are similar in size, and will therefore finish cooking at about the same time.

I cut the marinade recipe in half since we were only grilling 4 pieces of chicken for the two of us.

Italian Marinated Grilled Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbsp. thyme leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. oregano leaves
  • 2 Tbsp. basil leaves, rolled and chopped into chiffonade
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 3 lbs. chicken pieces, white and/or dark meat

Directions

  1. Whisk together all the ingredients in a medium bowl.
  2. Add chicken pieces (white and or dark meat) to a large re-sealable plastic bag. (Cut the breast halves, if using, in half again to be similar in size to the legs and thighs.)
  3. Pour in the marinade, seal and refrigerate for a minimum of 2, and up to 10 hours.
  4. When ready to cook, prepare a hot grill for the indirect method.
  5. Place the chicken on the hot side of the grill, turning them over after 5 minutes to sear the other side, for a total of 10 minutes. Baste occasionally.
  6. Move chicken to cooler side of grill, cover with lid and continue cooking for about another 20 minutes, no need to turn the chicken.
  7. Poultry is ready when the internal temperature reaches 165°-170°.
  8. If desired, serve with an additional drizzle of lemon juice and EVOO.

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Green Stuffed Peppers with Meat and Bread Crumbs

Stuffed Peppers with garlicky mashed potatoes is another one of those comfort meals; especially when the weather is on the cool side. And for the better part of Spring 2020, it’s unfortunately been cooler than normal here in the Northeast U.S. (until the last couple of days that is…)

Yes, there are as many ways to make these gems as there are meatball recipes. Here, I concentrated on using green bell peppers and bread crumbs instead of rice. (We’d been having a lot of rice lately.) Plus, no need to precook the rice, thus saving time and having to clean another pot.

Blanching the peppers helps the vegetables retain a nice bright color but it doesn’t really cook the vegetable. If you prefer, you can absolutely blanch your bell peppers before stuffing them. In this case, I skipped that step and saved a little time and dirtying yet another kitchen item. Two points!

Stuffed Peppers

A full 28-ounce can of tomato sauce may seem like a lot. But we love to top our mashed potatoes with it as well as the peppers. In fact, we had two stuffed peppers remaining, but no more sauce, so for the leftovers, we’ll open up another can.

Our herb garden was at picking stage already, so I was able to harvest four, very large basil leaves and enough fresh parsley for the stuffing. If you cannot access your fresh herbs, go ahead and used dried, although the end result won’t be quite as profound.

Make sure to select a heavy pot that is large and deep enough to contain all of the peppers with a little extra room for the tomato sauce.

Stuffed peppers with Meat and Bread Crumbs

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 large green peppers, stemmed, cored, and seeded
  • 1 1/2 lbs. meatloaf mix
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 4 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 large fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 28-oz. can tomato sauce, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add minced shallot and garlic. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally until the shallot is translucent. Move off of the heat to cool.
  3. Combine the meatloaf combo with all the other filling ingredients including the cooled shallot mixture and 1 cup of the tomato sauce. Stuff the peppers all the way to the top.
  4. Stand the peppers on end in a casserole dish. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes.
  5. Reduce the temperature to 375°F and pour the remaining 2 cups of tomato sauce over and around them.
  6. Continue baking until the inside temperature of the meat reaches 160°, about 40-45 minutes.
  7. Bring to the table in the casserole dish and serve.

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