Summer is the time for pesto. Bundles of basil, stacks of scapes and crates of cauliflower are abundant at the Collingswood Farmers’ Market.
Joe and I have hosted garlic scapes – from Savoie Organic Farm – in our pesto plates for the past few weeks. Ready for an updated pesto persona, we were delighted to see organic cauliflower bouquets at Muth Family Farms.
Cauliflower and almonds are paired in this pesto dish. It can be finished with sun-dried tomatoes and capers or some other market find.
cauliflower & almond pesto
1 head (or 3 cups) cauliflower, cut to florets and washed well
1/3 cup almonds, raw (unroasted and unsalted)
1-2 garlic cloves (to taste)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound pasta (orecchiette or your choice)
3 cups (or more) hot pasta cooking water
1/3 cup parmigiano-reggiano, finely grated
1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter (to taste)
salt to taste
sun-dried tomatoes, optional
Note on salt: Less is more throughout the pesto-making process. The pasta water is salted and the cheese is salty. More salt can always be added at the end.
Using a food processor, process the cauliflower florets, almonds and garlic clove(s) to a small rough chop. You can choose the level of fineness; I prefer a slightly chunkier texture.
With the processor on low speed, slowly pour in the olive oil until all ingredients are combined. Taste and season with salt. Set aside. (I transfer the pesto to a bowl and hit it with a generous pour of olive oil at this point.)
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water to al dente (firm to the bite). Feel free to taste your pasta during cooking to test for doneness. Strain the pasta and save three cups of the pasta cooking water.
Place the cooked and drained pasta into a large sauteuse (deep saute pan) with 1/2 cup of hot pasta cooking water and butter over medium-high heat. Stir together with quick movements to coat the pasta in butter so the pesto will stick (30 seconds or until the water has somewhat evaporated).
Remove from heat. Add the pesto mixture and pour another cup of hot pasta cooking water over the pesto. Stir fast for 1-2 minutes to create a cohesive sauce that coats the pasta. If the pesto is too thick, add more hot pasta cooking water to thin. Hit the pasta with a generous grating of cheese. Taste and season with salt if needed. Finish with light drizzle of olive oil just before serving, if desired.