Basil and Garlic Pesto with nested Mozzarella

In college we had a really kick-ass cafeteria. It wasn’t so much a cafeteria as it was a restaurant buffet with different ‘regions’ of food. The “East” line always had wood stove pizzas. The “East” was first and foremost, the eastern side of the room but also, offered food from Europe (mostly Italy) and Asia. Both places that are east of Minnesota. So it seems fitting that the daily pizza offering was offered there, right? Every day there was a delicious wood-stove hearth fired pizza offering. And what college doesn’t have wood-fired pizzas every day?

The best days were white sauce with broccoli and pesto pizza. The olive oil made that pizza greasy to the extreme, but not in the way that peperoni and sausage did. It was thin-crusted with air bubbles in the crust and the cheese melted and gooed all over the pest so they were inexorably melted together in mess of gooey, green goodness. Try saying that 5 times.

That pizza gave rise to my intense love of pesto. Pesto is easy, but beautiful. Simple, but complex. Delicious and a show stealer, but humble all at the same time. If you have a food processor, there’s not a single good reason on earth not to make your own pesto. Unless you can’t find basil. But still! Grow some in your window…buy an Aero Garden….do whatever you have to do. But don’t buy pesto from a jar. It’s unholy and wrong. And pesto is everything that is right in this world. It’s sweet and tangy and garlicky and cheesy and it en robes everything it touches in rich tanginess. With a nest of mozzarella and a poached egg…it’s other-worldly. Trust me.

Pesto is easy to make and you really only need five ingredients: a giant bunch of basil, a lemon, olive oil, a bulb of garlic and Parmesan cheese. It helps to have some salt and pepper as well but quite honestly, you don’t even need that. I know that ‘officially’ pesto is made with roasted pine nuts but I always skip that step. l don’t really feel like they’re necessary and they add valuable time and money that impedes the gloriousness of pesto from reaching my lips.

Garlic Basil Pesto

6 oz dry spaghetti noodles

1/2 cup fresh mozzarella balls

1 large bunch of fresh basil, stems and all

1 bulb of garlic, peeled

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

1 lemon, juiced

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

2 poached eggs (optional)

Put all ingredients in a food processor and process until well mixed. If necessary, stream in more oil through the top if your pesto is a bit dry. The mixture should blend easily and end up a thick, almost neon green paste.

Toss cooked pasta in a large skillet with the mixed pesto over medium heat. As the pesto heats it will turn darker and become less neon in color. The flavor of the lemon and the sharpness of the garlic will mellow slightly.

Depending on your tastes, sauteed mushrooms and fresh tomatoes work wonderfully in pesto. If you have them, add them in as well. I was out when I made this pesto but they are delicious additions, trust me.

Serve the pesto up immediately. Top with fresh mozzarella balls and garnish with a few sprigs of fresh basil.

And if you’d like a protein-packed, amazingly gooey dinner . . . add a poached egg on top of that nest of cheese.

The combo of egg, cheese, and pesto together in your mouth? You’ll thank me. 🙂


7 Comments on “Basil and Garlic Pesto with nested Mozzarella”

  1. Chris says:

    Do you know how much of a slut I am for pesto? Make some up the next time you are over, por favor.

  2. Jessica says:

    Can I hug you?
    I have a new herb garden and that basil is screaming at me. Also, I don’t like nuts so by you leaving them out makes me want to hug you even more.

    • Alisha says:

      😉 I don’t mind nuts but I tend to enjoy them separately from other things and not ground up in stuff. And it so doesn’t even matter in pesto. Not even noticeable.

  3. Joyti says:

    I think I’m having pesto for dinner now – your description of it is fabulous. And I love it too, I ate linguine with pesto, toasted pine nuts, and porcinis at least 2 days per week for a year of my life. I really like the way the pesto-pasta ‘nest’ looks with that bocconcini. So cute 🙂

  4. Jenn says:

    Alisha….I’m addicted to your blog! Yummy! Wondering if you have some tips for making a marinara for a pomodora pasta dish? I’m growing my own basil and roma tomatoes this summer. The wonderful CA sunshine is speeding up their production. I’ll have my first tomatoes in about 2 weeks!

    • Alisha says:

      Thanks Jenn!!! 🙂 I make marinara ALL the time, it’s one of those things that I’ve never followed a recipe for or used measurements on, which I realize, is not at all helpful. I think we’re going to have some red sauce this week, I promise to measure and document my process!
      PS how jealous am I that you’re already getting tomatoes? The answer is A LOT. We just planted out seedlings out five days ago. Damn Minnesota.

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