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  • Writer's picturerebeccaecarpenter

Garden to Kitchen: Lemon Pesto Pasta

Basil is my favorite herb, and this dish is one of my all-time favorite uses of it.  We’ve served this to just about everyone who has ever eaten at our house, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love it.

It’s a perfect summer dish — light, fresh, citrusy and fragrant.  Plus it is incredibly simple — you can make it ahead and serve it either hot or cold.  And it stores well, with the flavor intensifying overnight.  So we usually make a big batch and eat it all week.  Cook once, eat twice. Here’s how it goes from our garden…

We’re growing two varieties of basil (Napoleon & Genovese) in containers this summer. 

… to our kitchen:

Sometimes I cut more basil than I need for a recipe, and because I know every ounce of energy that went into growing that plant, I can’t bear to throw away even a single leaf.  So I stick the extra in a mason jar and keep it on my counter — it will usually sprout roots and last a couple more weeks.

This is a super-simple recipe.  First gather your ingredients — as you can see in the above photo, we’re using basil, lemon, parmesan, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and pasta.  Then prepare your favorite pasta according to the package directions…

I usually use whole grain Penne or Farfalle, but any pasta will work.

And throw all the other ingredients into a food processor…

And voilà, pesto:

You can serve this pesto right away or store it in the fridge for up to a week.  Some folks freeze it in ice cube trays to be used months later.  I haven’t tried that yet — I think that’ll be a good winter experiment. 

At this point you can eat the pesto straight up, and I often do.  It’s great on a slice of bread, and even better with tomatoes and mozzarella.

Or you can carry on with the last step of the recipe and add it to your pasta.  Any way you serve it will be delicious.    Here’s the full pasta recipe*:

Lemon Pesto Pasta


Fresh basil


Pine nuts

Fresh parmesan


Olive Oil


Variation:  Sun Dried Tomatoes


Pick the leaves from the basil stems, wash the basil & lemon, and zest the lemon.  Combine the basil, lemon zest & juice, pine nuts, parmesan and garlic in a food processor.  Blend until it’s well chopped, stopping to scrape the sides as needed.  Add the olive oil and puree until the pesto is thick and creamy, but not liquefied.  Prepare a pasta of your choice according to the package directions (I usually use whole grain Penne or Farfalle, but any kind will work).  Drain the pasta, leaving a bit of the water on the pasta so it’s still wet.  Add the pesto to the pasta and stir until it’s evenly covered.  Sprinkle with shaved parmesan.  Eat.  Love.

VARIATION:  Instead of lemon, try sun dried tomatoes.  Just skip all the parts about lemon, and add sun-dried tomatoes instead, blending them in the processor with the other ingredients.  This is a delicious and savory twist, and tastes great either straight-up or over pasta.

Here’s the finished goodness.  Buen provecho!**


* You’ll see that I often don’t designate specific quantities and measurements in my recipes.  I do this because you know better than I do how much food your family needs and what your tastes are.   Cooking isn’t an exact science, anyway — it’s more of an art.  (Baking is another story — it actually is science — so I include measurements for my baking recipes.)   So use whatever quantity you’d like, make changes to suit your tastes, and substitute ingredients to reflect what’s fresh in the garden and what’s available in your kitchen.

**  Buen Provecho:  This is a beautiful saying we learned in Ecuador when we were adopting our son.  There’s not a good literal translation from Spanish to English, because the loose translation — “Enjoy your meal” — doesn’t capture the full essence of the Spanish meaning.   The verb “aprovechar” means to make the most of, or to receive the full benefit of something.  Thus, when we say, “buen provecho,” it is offering our hope that the eater will receive the full benefits and advantages of the food we’ve prepared.  And that’s my wish for my friends and family when I cook for them — that they will receive all the goodness the food offers.

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