Bucatini with Almond Jalapeño Pesto

Bucatini with Almond Jalapeño Pesto Recipe

I first fell in love with Almond Jalapeño pesto in January of 2013. I had just returned home from visiting friends in Philadelphia and we had a wonderful dinner at Amis. They served it with bucatini and it seemed exotic, wholly unexpected, and to die for.  I loved it so much I immediately tried to recreate it when I came home. But where to start? I googled online for recipes but found nothing that inspired me. So imagine my surprise when I looked through my Babbo cookbook, and there in front of me was a recipe for Jalapeño pesto. Good old Mario Batali. His recipe used 6 jalapeños, 1/4 cup of blanched almonds, 1/2 diced onion and 1/4 cup of olive oil, pulsed and pureed in a food processor. It was good, but not exactly what I was looking for. I knew I'd have to play with the recipe to make it closer to what I had loved at Amis.

My first change was to cut back on jalapeño. I didn't mind the heat, but my husband is another story. I brought it down to just one. Improved already, but not yet perfect. I then added cheese to the mix, grated pecorino romano to be exact. Even better, but still not quite as unctuous as I remembered from the restaurant. Next time I made it, the addition of a goodly amount of butter brought back the richness. Delicious, yet I was still not satisfied. The addition of cheese and butter started making the dish feel heavy. So each time I made it, I played and played, and finally got to the recipe I now love.

My first major change came from switching to the blender. This made a much smoother and creamier sauce than the food processor, and with the addition of water, yielded the creamy unctuous texture I wanted without needing to add butter. I also wanted the sweet almond flavor to shine a bit more against the freshness of the jalapeño. Upping the almonds and cutting back on the onion helped as well. This recipe makes enough pesto for at least 4 big portions. Since I'm cooking for two, I store the remaining in an airtight container in the fridge for a quick dinner later in the week.

Boozy Epicure's Almond Jalapeño Pesto Recipe

3 oz blanched almonds
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
1 large or 2 small jalapeños, seeded
1/4 small sweet onion
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt/pepper to taste
toasted breadcrumbs and chopped parsley to garnish

Combine the almonds, water, cheese, onion, and jalapeño in a blender and blend until smooth. Then, while running, add the olive oil to make an emulsified sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Combine with hot pasta (bucatini is my favorite) and garnish with a sprinkling of toasted breadcrumbs and finely chopped parsley. Heaven on a plate.

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