Monday, March 17, 2014

Hatch Chile Fettuccine with Cilantro Pesto

Pesto is a sauce originating in northern Italy and traditionally consists of crushed garlic, basil, and European pine nuts blended with olive oil, and Parmigiano Reggiano.  Most Americans tend to think only inside this four (five including garlic) component box:  basil, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmesan.  If you haven’t done a variation on pesto, I really recommend you do so – there are some amazing combinations which will make you look back only for the occasional traditional fix.  My caveat: the only ingredient I always use in any pesto is garlic…

Here is my quick and easy Pesto Variation List:

  1. Green Stuff:  This is usually basil, but try cilantro, Italian parsley, spinach, kale, mint, arugula, or even tarragon or thyme instead.  The result is dramatic and an amazing difference.  If you are really adventurous you can go ‘un-green’ and use corn, carrots, or beets!  The Green Stuff can be a mix & match of more than one.
  2. Nuts:  Instead of traditional pine nuts, try almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans or hazelnuts.  I recommend you toast your nut choice first, a simple act which enhances the rich nut flavor.
  3. Olive Oil:  extra virgin olive oil will give you richness, but you can also add or use instead a lemon olive oil (like our Meyer Lemon Olive Oil), sesame oil, lemon, lime or orange juice, champagne vinegar, even honey.  Try kicking it up a notch with red pepper flakes, or something spicy.
  4. Cheese:  of course, Parmigaino Reggiano is the classic choice, but there are other ‘hard’ cheeses which can be used or added to give new flavor profiles.  Try Grana Padano, pecorino romano, or Cortija.  Think of in terms of nice ‘hard’ grating cheeses.

For this pesto we are going more Mexican/New Mexican, hence the use of cilantro and the classic Mexican cheese; cortija.

We paired this with our unique Hatch Green Chile Fettuccine.  Unless you are from the southwestern part of the U.S., you probably don’t know this chili.  It is celebrated in New Mexico and its primary flavor is fire roasting goodness but not overly spicy.  I give it about a 3 on a heat scale of 10, similar to a Poblano Chile.  There are, however, other choices from our pasta selection in which this will work well:


  • 2 bunches fresh cilantro, washed and patted dry
  • 1/2 heaping cup blanched, slivered almonds
  • 3 tablespoons cotija cheese (or Parmesan), crumbled
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed and peeled
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • one package PastamorĂ© Hatch Green Chile Fettuccine

In a small skillet add the almonds and toast until golden and fragrant over medium heat.  Allow to cool.

In the bowl of your food processor add the garlic and the cooled almonds, pulse until coarsely chopped.  Add the tops of the two bunches of cilantro, the cotija cheese, salt and the lime juice.  Pulse until coarsely ground.  With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

Remove and refrigerate until ready to use.  This makes about one cup, which is more than you will need to coat the pasta (depending on your personal sauce to pasta ratio).

Prepare the PastamorĂ© pasta using the instructions on the side of the package.  Remember to use a large pot and a lot of water – the key in making great, evenly cooked pasta.  Add a tablespoon or two of salt to the water before adding the dried pasta.  Cook to al dente.

Strain cooked pasta and return to hot pot.  Add a large dollop or two of the pesto (to taste) and toss.  Serve immediately in pre-warmed individual serving bowls.  If you have some extra cortija, grate on top.

Serves 4.

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