Recipe: Pesto and Shiitake Pasta

pestomushroompasta

Serves 4
4 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1/2 lb pasta
1 Tbsp plus 1/2 tsp salt
3 cups basil leaves – packed
1/2 to 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp sunflower or olive oil
3 Tbsp pine nuts or to taste
2 cloves of garlic
3/4 cup parmesan or friesago cheese

Bring 2 or 3 quarts of water to boil. Add 1 Tbsp salt and pasta and boil till al dente. If the toppings aren’t yet done, you may leave the pasta in cooking water to keep warm, but turn off the heat when pasta is still firm.

Place basil leaves, oil, pine nuts, garlic and 1/2 tsp salt in blender. Blend until smooth. Add more oil and stir carefully if it is too thick. Add more salt, pine nuts, or garlic to taste and blend again. You should be able to taste all flavors equally, though the pine nuts will be more of an aftertaste. Add 1/2 cup or more to taste of grated friesago or parmesan cheese, then stir or blend to integrate.

Remove stems from mushrooms and save for soup stock in the freezer. Chop or slice mushroom caps. Heat skillet or pan and add 2 Tbsp olive oil (or butter), then add  mushrooms when oil is hot. Saute until soft and slightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Serve pesto on top of hot pasta with mushrooms and remaining cheese, or serve cold for a midsummer picnic.

Variation: if you have garlic scapes available, use 2 oz. of them in lieu of the garlic and use between 2 and 2-1/2 cups of basil. This is also a delicious topping for a burger or steak, with more shiitake mushrooms!

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