RECIPE: Pesto Pasta and Sauvignon Blanc

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When my herb garden begins to yield bunches of fragrant and delicious sweet basil, I know it’s time to prepare one of my favorite summertime meals. With this lovely herb as the centerpiece, I created a wonderful -yet simple- meal that you may want to try sometime soon. Not surprisingly, I also have a few wine suggestions for these basil-infused dishes. So here goes. Many folks use basil as a seasoning for salads and one of my favorites is an old family recipe. Today, I’ll provide you with this salad recipe and also with one of my favorite summertime culinary masterpieces: pesto pasta.

First the salad.

1. Start with six or so sweet and ripe tomatoes which should be cut into one-inch wedges.

2. Prepare the basil: I had picked a small basket full of basil leaves, being careful to snip the larger of them with my fingers at the base of the plant in order to insure continued growth. (You can buy basil at most grocery stores, but it’s a lot cheaper to grow your own.)

3. Next, finely mince one garlic clove, chop one medium-sized sweet onion into one-inch pieces and add this to the tomatoes. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste) to the tomatoes and onions and then pour about three ounces of extra virgin olive oil to the dish. Now take a hand-full of sweet basil and chop it into small pieces and add this to the mixture. If you have fresh oregano, put the leaves from one sprig into the salad.

4. If you like a touch of heat, slice a hot banana pepper in half and cut it into small pieces, adding this to the tomato salad. This is optional, but I love the piquancy of the pepper and the flavor it gives to the salad. (Incidentally, I do not recommend using vinegar since the tomatoes usually provide sufficient acidic balance to the salad.)

5. At this point, allow the salad to sit at room temperature for at least one-hour, stirring it occasionally. Then taste it and make final adjustments (salt, garlic, etc.). It is now ready.

Now for the pesto:

1. Take two handfuls of basil, wash and pat dry with a paper towel. In a food processor, put the basil, five or six medium garlic cloves, six to eight ounces of extra virgin olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper and one-cup of freshly grated mild parmesan cheese ( I prefer to use Parmigiano Reggiano, but it’s expensive). Blend until the consistency is very smooth and taste to adjust for salt and garlic (is there ever enough garlic?).

2. Next, put a handful pine nuts in a small sauté pan and stir till slightly brown over medium heat and add to the mixture.

3. Now add one pound of cappellini or angel hair pasta to boiling, salted water and cook till the pasta is slightly firm (usually about three to five minutes). Put the pasta in a colander, drain it and then add it to a bowl. Pour the pesto mixture over the pasta and blend the ingredients. Dinner is ready!

Serve the tomato salad in bowls (because it will have made a large amount of juice). At the same time, serve the pesto pasta on plates and add a little more freshly grated cheese. You will need at least one loaf of crusty bread (Ciabatta or other crusty bread from the Charleston Bread Company would be excellent), especially to dip into the tomato/basil salad.

WINE SUGGESTION: This meal demands sauvignon blanc where the herbal components in the wine will marry nicely with the pesto and tomato salad. Try sauvignon blanc from producers such as Dry Creek, Nobilo, Kenwood or Kim Crawford (all under $17 a bottle).

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10 Comments to “RECIPE: Pesto Pasta and Sauvignon Blanc”

  1. Chuck Anziulewicz says:

    You have two more tantalizing wine recommendations in today’s (July 8) Sunday Gazette-Mail. So once again, where do I find them? Kroger? The Wine Shop? Drug Emporium? It would be REALLY helpful if you could note where these wines might be purchased locally.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Chuck Anziulewicz says:

    You have two more tantalizing wine recommendations in today’s (July 8) Sunday Gazette-Mail. So once again, where do I find them? Kroger? The Wine Shop? Drug Emporium? It would be REALLY helpful if you could note where these wines might be purchased locally.

    Thanks in advance.

  3. John Brown says:

    Chuck: You may find those wines at the Capitol Market or the South Hills Kroger. I hesitate to list where I purchased them because sometimes they are sold out,but unless I specify that they are from out of state, you can generally find them at local shops. Unless you’re in a hurry, it’s kind of fun to shop around the city for not only what I suggest, but for what might tickle your wine fancy. By the way, I’m really impressed with the renewed emphasis by Drug Emporium on their wine section. Great number of excellent selections.

  4. John Brown says:

    Chuck: You may find those wines at the Capitol Market or the South Hills Kroger. I hesitate to list where I purchased them because sometimes they are sold out,but unless I specify that they are from out of state, you can generally find them at local shops. Unless you’re in a hurry, it’s kind of fun to shop around the city for not only what I suggest, but for what might tickle your wine fancy. By the way, I’m really impressed with the renewed emphasis by Drug Emporium on their wine section. Great number of excellent selections.

  5. admin says:

    Dear John: I suggest writing about wine shopping in Charleston and unexpected places to look like Drug Emporium. They have the best prices there often and I always comparison shop their prices with elsewhere | Doug Imbrogno

  6. admin says:

    Dear John: I suggest writing about wine shopping in Charleston and unexpected places to look like Drug Emporium. They have the best prices there often and I always comparison shop their prices with elsewhere | Doug Imbrogno

  7. DEAR JOHN:

    Thanks for the update. Henceforth I’ll make a point of clipping your wine recommendations from the Sunday paper and looking for them at those locations. And I must chime in with Doug Imbrogno: The wine selection at Drug Emporium near Patrick St. is surprisingly good, and they often provide rating and tasting notes.

    CHUCK ANZIULEWICZ

  8. DEAR JOHN:

    Thanks for the update. Henceforth I’ll make a point of clipping your wine recommendations from the Sunday paper and looking for them at those locations. And I must chime in with Doug Imbrogno: The wine selection at Drug Emporium near Patrick St. is surprisingly good, and they often provide rating and tasting notes.

    CHUCK ANZIULEWICZ

  9. John Brown says:

    Doug and Chuck: I agree that Drug Emporium has excellent pricing and I have noted their recent update of the wine sections in their stores. I do
    peruse their aisles often – as I do other wine sensitive shops. You can often find an occasional gem in the Fas Chek store on Washington Street in West Charleston too. They always seem to have close-outs of interesting labels for prices as low as $2.50 a bottle. However, you need to be aware that some of these wines are “over the hill.”

  10. John Brown says:

    Doug and Chuck: I agree that Drug Emporium has excellent pricing and I have noted their recent update of the wine sections in their stores. I do
    peruse their aisles often – as I do other wine sensitive shops. You can often find an occasional gem in the Fas Chek store on Washington Street in West Charleston too. They always seem to have close-outs of interesting labels for prices as low as $2.50 a bottle. However, you need to be aware that some of these wines are “over the hill.”

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