November 20, 2008

parsley pesto broth

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon the Dark Days Challenge from Urban Hennery. Basically, the challenge unites a bunch of bloggers in an effort to cook at least one meal a week featuring 90% local ingredients. And each week, a recap is done of the ideas and creations from participating bloggers. What an awesome idea.

So here's my first submission; a fairly simple dish where everything except the olive oil and pecorino romano was sourced from the Puget Sound... even the dried pasta was locally produced (from Papparadelle's in Pike Place).

One of our favorite places for a late night meal in Seattle is Union downtown. The bar serves a terrific menu after 10 pm, the cocktails are carefully and expertly crafted, and the prices are absolutely fantastic for the quality of the food.

Among my favorite Ethan Stowell dishes is any pasta he makes with his parsley pesto broth, often paired with pristine mussels. Most recently, we tried a preparation with cavatelli that was outrageously good...

So tonight, I made a first attempt at replicating the dish at home. I followed a standard pesto recipe, but substituted the basil with parsley leaves and used grated pecorino romano rather than parmigiano reggiano for its more assertive flavor and saltiness.

The best part of Stowell's parsley pesto broth is its dilution. Rather than dressing his pasta with straight pesto, he dilutes it (either with broth or cooking liquid from the pasta) to make a much thinner consistency. The flavor still envelopes the pasta, but you get a beautifully green lingering broth that oozes out, robust and packed with flavor, keeping the pasta from getting clumpy or greasy from the pesto.

parsley pesto

1 large bunch flat leaf parsley (roughly 4 cups of leaves)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 large garlic cloves
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino romano
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine first 4 ingredients in blender, discarding the parsley stems. Blend until paste forms, stopping often to push down the parsley. Add pecorino romano and salt; blend until smooth. Transfer to small bowl.

pasta and mussels in a parsley pesto broth

2 servings of dried pasta (cavatelli and orichiette work very well)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lb. large mussels (roughly 8-10, rinsed and debearded)
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 strip of bacon, diced (optional)
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons of parsley pesto

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking: In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and gently saute until translucent. Add bacon and continue to cook until the bacon is crisp. Add mussels and toss to coat. Deglaze the pan with wine and put lid over pan. Cook until the mussels have steamed and opened, approx. 2 minutes.

Once the mussels have opened, remove them from the pan. Add parsley pesto to the pan and heat to loosen the pesto and incorporate the broth in the saute pan. Add pasta to the sauce and toss to coat, adding pasta cooking liquid to the pan to further
loosen the pesto as needed, until the pesto has a viscous, soupy consistency (like potato leek soup). Add mussels back to the pan and toss again to coat. Remove from heat and serve.

Serves 2 people.


  1. Interesting, I'll try the broth idea next time I make pesto.

  2. Your photographs are just gorgeous - they're making my mouth water, and it's hardly lunchtime! :)

    Mmm. If we had mussels here in Kansas City, I would be all over that recipe. Maybe it can be done with a few substitutions... I'll have to try it some time!

  3. Gave this a go tonight and it made for an easy and very satisfying dinner. Had to substitute for what was on hand, so mushrooms replaced mussels, walnuts the pine nuts, parano for the romano, and curly parsley for flat. All worked well, except I think the curly parsley is not quite so parsleyish as flat, so I'd like to try the flat for next time.

  4. What beautiful pics. I'm glad to have found your blog through the Dark Days Challenge. Great job on the local meal :-)