I know, some of you might be groaning over this non-traditional pesto, but you know what? I don’t care!! There are times to be a purist, and then there are times when being one keeps you from enjoying many other gastronomic delights! Relax and experiment with the endless varieties of pesto that can be created from fresh herbs, nuts or seeds, garlic, and cheeses.
Because pumpkin seeds make me think Southwestern cuisine, I decided to use cilantro for my herb in the pesto. No, it’s not basil, but it works! And the good thing these days, is that cilantro is available year round, so you can enjoy a fresh pesto in the middle of winter.
Typically there’s no half-and-half in pesto, but the key here is to cook the pasta al dente, and then place the drained, hot pasta in the creamy pesto sauce. The pasta, I used ditali, will absorb the sauce.
Pasta with Creamy Cilantro Pumpkin Seed Pesto
8 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces half-and-half
Large bunch of cilantro or fresh, de-stemmed of thick stems, approx. 3.5 ounces
1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds, unsalted
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 ounces cooked pasta of choice
4 ounces Cotija, divided
Place the olive oil, half-and-half, cilantro, pumpkin seeds, garlic, and salt in the blender jar. Blend until smooth.
Pour the creamy pesto in a serving bowl and add the prepared pasta. Stir gently to combine. Let sit for at least 5 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Add 3 ounces of the cotija and stir, then serve. If you prefer, use grated mozzarella or Monterey Jack.
Sprinkle more cheese on the servings of pesto, if desired. I served it with a cherry tomato and shallot salad with a cumin-lime dressing.
If you prefer, use a combination of cilantro and parsley in this pesto recipe or, use some fresh spinach.
This pasta would be good as a side dish to cumin-grilled fish or steak. And if you want to go crazy, add a can of drained black beans and a can of drained corn to the pasta for a heftier but meatless dish.
For a blender-size amount of traditional pesto click here.