Penne with pesto, new potatoes, and pine nuts

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July 23, 2008

Serves 4

1/2 cup pine nuts
2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
1/2 pound slender green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
5 tiny red or yellow new potatoes, halved if large
1 pound penne
Pepper, to taste
1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Spread the pine nuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast them for 7 minutes or until they are lightly browned. Remove them from the oven and set aside to cool.

2. In a food processor, combine the basil leaves, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pine nuts. Pulse the mixture until it is finely chopped. With the machine running, add the olive oil through the feed tube in a thin steady stream until the mixture forms a paste. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the pesto to a bowl. Stir in the Parmesan and pecorino cheeses.

3. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook them for 3 minutes or until they are bright green and tender but crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the beans from the water.

4. Add potatoes to the same water and simmer for 5 minutes or until they are tender when pierced with a skewer. Use the slotted spoon to remove the potatoes from the liquid. Leave to cool slightly, then slice the potatoes thickly.

5. Bring the vegetable cooking water back to a boil. Add the penne and cook over high heat for 12 minutes or until tender.

6. Before draining the pasta, remove 2 tablespoons cooking water.

7. Drain the pasta into a colander. Shake the colander to remove the excess moisture and tip the penne into a bowl. Add the pasta cooking water and the pesto. Toss the mixture gently to coat the pasta all over.

8. Add the green beans, potatoes, and pepper. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Jonathan Levitt

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