A zingy pesto and buttery breadcrumbs make this simple pasta anything but ordinary. A hot pasta dish does not always have to be loaded down with sausage, cheese, and a heavy sauce. Lighten it up and try this quick and easy spaghetti dish, which is lightly flavored with a bright pesto made from fresh basil, parsley, and pecans. When making any type of pasta dish, however, one simple trick will take the dish from good to great. The key to making great tasting pasta is in the cooking water. Add about 2 tablespoons of kosher salt to a large stockpot of water before boiling. When the pasta is cooked, reserve a couple of cups of cooking water before draining the pasta. The salty, starchy liquid seasons your homemade sauce, gives it a silky texture and helps it cling to the noodles. Don’t rinse the pasta or you will wash away more of the good starch. Add the pasta water a little at a time, stirring until the sauce is rich and smooth. The Herb-Pecan Pesto is also delicious drizzled over grilled chicken or fish, or spooned over goat-cheese topped crostini.
6 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups), plus more for serving
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pecan halves (about 2 oz.)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves
5 ounces sourdough or other crusty bread, crust removed, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
How to Make It
Pulse garlic cloves in a food processor until finely chopped. Add bread and lemon zest, and pulse until coarse crumbs form. Stir in salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium. Add breadcrumb mixture, and cook, stirring often, until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer breadcrumb mixture to a small bowl.
Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups cooking water. Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl; cover to keep warm.
While pasta cooks, process basil, parsley, Parmesan, oil, pecans, lemon juice, garlic, and salt in a food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as necessary.
Add pesto and butter to hot pasta; toss gently until pasta is coated. Stir in cooking water, 1/4 cup at a time, until sauce reaches desired consistency. Discard any remaining cooking water. Top with Garlicky Breadcrumbs and Parmesan.