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A fresh tomato pesto pasta with a wee bit of a kick

June 7, 2022 at 10:00 p.m.
Pesto made with fresh tomatoes, lots of Parmesan and olive oil flavored with chili peppers makes for an easy pasta sauce in summer. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

By Gretchen McKay

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Summer calls for dishes that don't require a lot of prep, hinge on seasonal produce and can be served either chilled or at room temperature, depending on the temperature of where you'll be eating it.

This pesto-dressed bowl of pasta fits the bill perfectly. Made with fresh cherry tomatoes and basil right out of the garden (or from your favorite farmer), the sauce requires only a quick whirl in a food processor or blender to come together.

I use a mix of toasted slivered almond and toasted cashews, but you could easily choose one or the other. Chili pepper olive oil from Liokareas adds the tiniest bit of a spicy kick, but you could also double up on the amount of regular olive oil and simply add a pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes instead.

It's served here over rigatoni, but the pesto is also pretty tasty as a spread for bruschetta or tucked into a sandwich; thinned with a little more olive oil, it makes a welcome dip on a charcuterie board. Add a green salad and some crusty Italian bread and you've got a great summer supper with plenty of leftovers for lunch.

Pasta With Fresh Tomato Pesto And Chili

1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

1/4 cup cashews, toasted

1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed

1 large handful basil leaves, about 1 cup packed

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved, with a few reserved for garnish

Pinch or two of kosher salt

1/4 cup extra-virgin chili pepper olive oil

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1 pound cooked rigatoni, warm or room temperature

Place almonds and garlic in the bowl of a food processor or blender, and pulse together until finely chopped. Scrape down sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula.

Add the basil and tomatoes and pulse again to combine. Add Parmesan cheese along with a pinch or two of salt, and pulse several times more. Scrape down the sides again with spatula.

With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream until combined. If pesto is too thick, add a little more olive oil until you reach the desired consistency.

Place cooked rigatoni in a bowl, then add pesto and toss well to combine. Spoon into bowls, and drizzle with a little more olive oil, if desired.

Serve garnished with reserved tomato, with additional Parmesan on the side. Add a green salad and bread for a full meal.

Serves 6-8.

-- Gretchen McKay

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