As I mentioned a couple days ago, I decided to use the scapes (the ones I didn’t put into my summer squash salad) to make a pesto. Rather than follow a recipe, I winged it, using ingredients other than those traditional to pesto. In fact, there is no basil, no pine nuts, and not even parmesan in this recipe (I know, what business do I have calling it pesto?)! I did have on hand some pine nuts, but not quite enough for the dish, so I decided to use a combination of pecans and walnuts instead. These nuts have a less delicate flavor than pine nuts, to be sure, but I thought they would stand up well against the strongly flavored garlic scapes. Also, I decided to use the asiago cheese I already had in my fridge, rather than the more traditional parmesan or romano. I though the sharp flavor would nicely balance the garlicky punch of the scapes.
Pesto in general is pretty simple to make. Just crush the chunky and leafy ingredients together, incorporate some olive oil, then stir in the cheese. Simple! Normally, you pour the “raw” pesto over piping hot pasta, give it a tossÂ (maybe adding some pasta water), and you are done. In this case, after incorporating the oil, but before incorporating the cheese,Â I tasted the pesto and it was just a bit too piquant, too strong, and too, well,Â I don’t know how else to describe it, but, a little too green.Â The beauty of winging it is that youÂ aren’t bound to follow tradition. So, I decided to try to mellow out the flavors by putting the pesto on the stove for a few minutes before incorporating the pasta and cheese (something that would ruin a basil pesto).
The pesto pasta turned out really well: incredibly creamy, garlicky, nutty, and uncommonly delicious. So, here’s my non-traditional-in-every-way pesto. I hope you enjoy it! (But enjoy it soon–garlic scapes have a brief summer season!)
Garlic Scape Pesto
2/3 cup pecans and/or walnuts
1 cup roughly chopped garlic scapes
at least 1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 pound pasta
1 cup asiago cheese
Start a big pot of salted water boiling for the pasta.
Put the nuts in large frying pan set on a medium flame. Stir the nuts often until the just begin to release a scent, a few minutes, then turn the flame off.
Put the chopped scapes and the nuts in a food processor (it i ok if the nuts are still hot) and pulse until the texture is uniform and the size of big breadcrumbs, stopping to scrape down the sides of the processor bowl as necessary.
Now, turn the processor on and pour in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Keep pouring, exceeding the 1/4 cup, if necessary, until the sauce loosens up and spins freely around the processor, but is not yet liquidy. Season with salt and pepper.
Start cooking the pasta now, setting the timer to a minute or two less than the pasta package directs.
Scrape the contents into the same frying pan you used to toast the nuts. Turn the heat on medium-low. Stir frequently. When the pasta is a few minutes to done, add it and a bit of the pasta water to the pesto and continue stirring.
Once the pasta is perfectly al dente and coated with the sauce, turn off the heat and stir in the cheese. (LydiaÂ Bastianich taught me never to add cheese while the flame is on–it will get stringy and separate into a gloppy, oily mess). Now, enjoy!
A note: the pasta I used here was organic elk pasta from IKEA of all places. The pesto clung to the shape really well, but I can’t recommend the pasta for its flavor. Any shape pasta would work well for this, but it seems the more complicated the shape, the better the sauce-cling!