Monday, September 16, 2013

Enjoying Pesto Pasta

When I was younger I liked my spaghetti heavy in tomato sauce done Filipino style, meaning heavy on the sugar for the sweet taste. But as my taste buds matured and my preferences became more urbane, I found myself looking for more authentic Italian flavors.
I still enjoy spaghetti and thankfully my family has the same preference now for the sour Italian blend and al dente noodles. But I realized that the best pasta are often the simple ones, like the herby taste of pesto.

Pesto is a sauce comes from rendering basil, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil. It actually shares the Latin origin of the kitchen implement used to render the raw herbs into sauce, the pestle of mortar and pestle. So that is how basically it is prepared, through the pounding and grounding of said raw materials.

Pesto pasta as prepared by my sister.
I had this for my birthday a coupe of years back.
There are variations of the dish and one includes using cream in lieu of olive oil, but I prefer the original one. I like the dish so much that I often request it from my sister for my birthday, which she makes from the basil we grow in our garden.

Spaghetti Al Pesto at Pizza Hut. Served with a wedge of garlic bread.
In my opinion, the best pesto pasta available commercially in Cagayan de Oro, can be had at Pizza Hut. I just love it. They use liberal amounts of olive oil, mixed in some chopped olives and topped it with almonds. It is a guilty pleasure worth spending a cheat day on. I usually would like to have a lot of cheese in my pasta, but this dish transcends my need to drown pasta in cheese. It is so good that it has become my default setting for pesto pasta. If any I've tried at any restaurant does not approach it's greatness, I would be terribly disappointed.

The pesto pasta at Italianni's.
The photo is a little puny,
 but it is the only one I had rights to.
The only other pesto dish that passed muster would be the one from Italianni's. It is also at the Italianni's in Centrio that I've had true al dente pasta on a regular basis. They also used the freshest ingredients and it makes their version of pesto pasta stand out. Plus, they have refillable complimentary bread which useful in sopping every drop of the sauce clean off the plate.

I love pesto so much that my sister always stashes a little extra away when she's doing pasta. It's a great idea to add  pesto to mayonnaise for gourmet style sandwiches and that where we often use the extra pesto we've kept com our pasta meal. It gives ordinary sandwiches a little bite and a whiff of sophistication.