Currently, I’m sitting in my parents’ backyard in Boise with a prime view of some very cute duck families. I took a little “just because” trip to see my parents, sister, niece, and nephew, and it’s been lovely. Idaho is beautiful this time of year, and I’m just doing a lot of relaxing, eating the good foods, and drinking the good drinks. The Lord’s work, they call it. Just kidding.
On another note, I’ve mentioned my love of my little garden here before, but truly, it’s the best hobby I’ve ever started as an adult. When our tiny tomato seeds started to sprout, I was super skeptical about them turning into full, blossoming plants. Joke’s on me because they are getting crazy-tall, and sprouting tomatoes all over the place. I believe, at last count, I had 45 little, green tomatoes. That little garden ended up being so much more than we bargained for in the best way possible. It inspires me to be less of a plant/life skeptic and get in touch with my inner-optimist. One of the many great uses for a bounty of tomatoes is one of the two sauces we’re talking about today. That’s right, not one but two versions of pesto in one pasta because I can’t seem to leave well enough alone. These two sauces are so simple to throw together, and compliment each other perfectly. They’re also both amazing on chicken, fish, bruschetta, and more.
First, we have a roasted tomato and walnut pesto, which is a recipe I slightly tweaked from Bon Appetit and has been a top-tier favorite of mine since I saw it in one of their issues in 2016. It’s super fresh, and the walnuts lend this creamy factor that takes this pesto to the next level. This sauce stands alone, but I felt like giving it some extra herbaceous oomph. Tomatoes and basil have always been a great couple, why break ‘em up now? Our second pesto couldn’t be simpler, but what it lacks in complexity, it makes up for in brightness. Tons of fresh basil, lemon zest and juice, toasted walnuts, and the usual pesto suspects, garlic, parm, and of course, EVOO get all blended up for one delicious basil pesto with the perfect amount of fresh acidity.
The spaghetti gets tossed in the creamy roasted tomato and walnut pesto, then gets studded with dollops of the basil pesto, and topped with toasted, herbed anchovy breadcrumbs. Don’t bristle at the anchovy portion of the program (unless you’re veg, in which case, bristle away)- it really just lends a savory level of, for lack of a better term, umami. If you’re not into that, just toast them up with the butter and herbs, and finish with a good sprinkling of sea salt. Let’s get up to our eyeballs in pesto, shall we? Was that appetizing?
Preheat your oven to 375, and to a sheet pan, and halve all but some of your cherry tomatoes (I usually leave the ones on the smaller side whole). Drizzle with olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes, until tomatoes have released some of their liquid, and the skin is beginning to blister. Add your walnuts to a dry pan, and toss over low heat until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes.
While your tomatoes are cooking, make your breadcrumbs. to a food processor, add 2 slices of good bread, and pulse until coarse crumbs are formed. To a small frying pan, add 1 tbs olive oil + 1 tbs butter and heat over medium-low heat. Add 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, and 2 inches of anchovy paste to your pan, and combine with the butter/oil. Add your breadcrumbs, along with your chopped thyme, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Toss over medium-low heat until golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to trap excess oil.
Make your basil pesto. Add 1/3 c of your walnuts, along with the garlic to a blender or food processor. Pulse until the walnuts are very pulverized and beginning to release their oils. You’ll be able to tell, because they’ll start to slightly stick to the side of the bowl. Then, add your basil, lemon zest and juice, and a good pour of olive oil to get everything started. Pulse to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl/blender as needed. Once the mixture begins to combine, leave the blender/food processor running, and stream in olive oil until the pesto becomes a homogeneous mixture. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Pour into a bowl, and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Set aside until ready to assemble.
To make the roasted tomato-walnut pesto, we combine the garlic, the lemon zest, anchovy paste, red pepper flakes, and parmigiano in the blender. Pulse to combine. Then, add in all but about 1/2 cup of your roasted tomatoes, including their liquid in the pan, along with all but a couple tablespoons of the toasted walnuts (we are reserving a few to top our pasta), and blend to combine. Add in about a 1/3 c of olive oil, and blend until just combined. Set aside.
To a large pot of salted, boiling water, add your spaghetti, and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of your cooking liquid.
To a large pan, add your spaghetti, along with your roasted tomato and walnut pesto, tossing to combine, and coating with small amounts of the pasta cooking liquid as necessary, until the sauce coats all of the strands of spaghetti. Add your reserved roasted tomatoes, and toss once more. Add to the serving bowl of your choice, and top with tablespoon-sized dollops of your lemony basil pesto. Next, add a generous sprinkle of parmigiano, your reserved toasted walnuts, and torn basil leaves.
The way the roasted tomato and walnut pesto coats the al dente spaghetti is downright luxury. The sweetness of the tomatoes really comes out when you roast them, and the other elements in the sauce lend the perfect savory compliment. The basil pesto makes the flavor of the tomatoes even more pronounced, and crunchy, herb-y breadcrumbs in every bite make this pasta incredibly hard to stop eating.
Here’s hoping your weekend plans include pasta. Mine include Disney movies with my niece (Fully have the “Gaston” song from Beauty & The Beast stuck in my head RN. Which, side-note, I heard someone say on a podcast is the song they sing to get “pumped up” which really made me laugh). We are also making a sartu di riso with my mom and sister. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a breadcrumb-coated bundt of risotto, partially filled with a really delicious tomato sauce and cheese. Essentially, arancini in bundt form. I’m very into it.
Make one, or both of these pesto beauties. They’re amazing alone, together, and on countless other dishes (Hot tip: they’re SO good on pizza). Make them ahead, place plastic wrap on the surface of sauce, cover, and freeze them. Then, thank yourself on an exhausting Monday later. Jar them and refrigerate for up to a week for a quick dinner or appetizer addition. You get the idea. Versatile sauces always win the day.
Spaghetti with Roasted Tomato + Walnut Pesto, Lemony Basil Pesto, + Herbed Anchovy Breadcrumbs
Roasted Tomato + Walnut Pesto (Inspired by Bon Appetit)
1 lb spaghetti
2 dry pints cherry tomatoes, all but some halved
2/3 c, plus 2 tbs walnuts
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbs lemon zest
3” anchovy paste, or 2 oil-packed fillets, finely minced
2 tbs, plus 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c parmigiano reggiano, finely grated, plus more for serving
1/2 c pasta water
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemony Basil Pesto
1 1/3 c basil
1/3 cup walnuts
1 clove garlic
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbs lemon juice
1/3 c parmigiano reggiano, finely grated
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Herbed Anchovy Breadcrumbs
2 slices good bread
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2” anchovy paste
1 tbs butter
1 tbs oil
1 tbs freshly chopped thyme