David Leventi
Strozzapreti alla Genovese
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Strozzapreti alla Genovese

Jonathan Benno, Lincoln / December 2010

For 4 servings

Basil puree
• 1 lg. bunch basil, leaves picked and blanched in 3 1/2 qts. water mixed with 1/2 cup salt
• 4 1/4 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil

  1. Wring basil with hands; place in paper towels; press out as much water as possible; roughly chop; place in a blender; add oil; pulse, scraping down sides with rubber spatula as needed, to coarse puree (should be similar to traditional pesto); place in airtight container; cover; reserve.

Squash blossom pesto
• 1 head garlic
• 5 1/3 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
• 25 threads saffron
• 2 med. yellow squash, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
• 5 squash blossoms, leaves removed from the base
• 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
• 10 Tbsps. Parmesan, freshly grated
• 3 Tbsps. pine nuts, toasted
• 2 Tbsps. Champagne or white wine vinegar
• black pepper, freshly ground

  1. Heat oven to 350°F.

  2. Cut off top of garlic; place in aluminum foil pouch; drizzle with 1 Tbsp. oil; seal pouch; cook 1 hour; remove from oven; cool slightly; squeeze out roasted garlic cloves; reserve; discard skins.

  3. Bring 1 cup water to a boil in small saucepan; remove from heat; add saffron; let stand 5 to 10 minutes (steep like making tea); add squash, blossoms, and salt; set over high heat until squash is tender; drain in a colander set over large bowl; reserve cooking liquid.

  4. Place squash and blossoms in a blender; add reserved garlic, Parmesan, remaining 4 1/3 Tbsps. oil, pine nuts, and vinegar; blend until smooth and sauce-like (add reserved cooking liquid as needed to achieve desired consistency); season; cool; place in airtight container; cover; reserve in refrigerator.

Assembly
• 2 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
• 1 med. yellow squash, sides cut into 1/2" by 1 1/2" bâtons
• 1 med. zucchini, sides cut into 1/2" by 1 1/2" bâtons
• 1 clove garlic
• 1 lb. dried strozzapreti pasta, cooked to al dente, liquid reserved
• 1 sm. piece Parmesan, freshly grated

  1. Place squash blossom pesto in small saucepan set over medium-low heat; cook until just heated through; remove from heat; reserve (keep warm).

  2. Heat oil in a skillet set over medium-high heat; add squash, zucchini, and garlic; cook until brown; remove from heat; remove garlic from pan; discard; add basil puree; ladle enough reserved pasta water into pan to make a light sauce; add pasta; toss gently to coat; drizzle in some oil; toss well; reserve (keep warm).

  3. To serve, spoon a generous amount of squash blossom pesto in the center of each serving plate; divide pasta among plates, mounding on top of pesto; sprinkle with Parmesan.