Paccheri with Creamy Sundried Tomato Pesto
My creative process usually goes something like this: go to a nice market, see something on the shelf, think of something to make with it, go home, not have the rest of the ingredients, go back to the store, get more ingredients, start to make the dish, come up with more ideas whilst cooking, then arrive at final product. That was pretty much the story with this pesto. I had no idea what it would taste like, but it was seriously delicious. I (as per usual) didn't really measure anything, but I think the rough estimates below will help guide you to make this beautiful dish.
One more very important thing - please taste as you go. I tasted my pesto every step of the way, after every pulse in the food processor. You should be creating something you want to eat, so as you're mixing, taste for salt, spice, and texture. When you add cheese, taste it and make sure it's enough. There isn't a "right" way to do this, there's a million different ways to make pesto, and you should make one that you like. So please taste what you do.
8-10 sundried tomatoes
handful of walnuts, toasted
2 handfuls of pignoli nuts, toasted (1 handful for the pesto, 1 for garnish)
1 garlic clove, chopped and warmed in oil for 1 min to remove some of the bite in raw garlic
1 handful of pecorino romano (freshly grated - this is important)
1 handful parmesan (freshly grated - this is important)
1 heaping handful of basil
olive oil for the pesto
fine quality olive oil for garnish
burrata for garnish
reserved pasta water for the sauce
pinch of salt for pesto and salt for pasta water
Toast your nuts in a pan and put to side. Do the same with your garlic, cooking it for a minute or 2 will remove some of the bite that raw garlic can have. This isn't a garlicky-pesto so if you want it to be garlicky, add more than 1 clove of garlic. Add a pinch of salt.
In your food processor, first add your nuts and garlic, pulse a few times until chopped. Add your sundried tomatoes and continue to pulse, scraping down the sides as needed. Lastly, add your basil, pulse until you have a rough chop on everything. Now, slowly add olive oil to this mixture and pulse until it becomes a thick paste. Try to add the olive oil in separate increments so you can achieve the thick-emulsified texture with the oil mixed into the herbs. It should not be a liquid, more like a paste. When you have the paste, remove from mixer and add to a large bowl. Fold in each cheese separately and slowly, making sure you incorporate fully into the paste.
Meanwhile, boil a pot of water. When just about to boil, salt the water and add your pasta of choice (paccheri was amazing, but I could see this with anything, use your favorite pasta).
Prepare a large bowl with your pesto. I added about 4 heaping tablespoons for a lb of pasta. Add a drizzle of olive oil on top of the pesto in the bowl. Halfway through pasta cooking time, add 1/2 C of pasta water to the pesto mixture. Stir until the pesto becomes a liquid sauce. If it is still pastey, add a bit more water.
Reserve another 1/2 C pasta water on the side. When the pasta is al dente, add directly to the pesto and lightly stir, incorporating the sauce onto the pasta. Add the reserved pasta water, even if it seems watery, trust me, it isn't.
Serve with burrata, a drizzle of olive oil, extra basil, and toasted pine nuts.