Now that is an alliterative title! Moving on…
I’m really not a big fan of store-bought or even most restaurant pesto. Something about it tastes stale or old…just not fresh. Maybe they make it too far in advance, maybe they heat it up too long before they use it. I’m not really sure – there’s just something off about it.
I’m lucky enough to live in a place where I can get fresh, local basil all year long. But most of you have likely been on a fresh basil hiatus for a few months. There’s no better way to welcome it’s arrival at the farmers market than fresh, homemade pesto.
Instead of the usual pasta, I dressed some garlic-sauteed shrimp in the fresh pesto. Nestled on creamy Parmesan polenta and topped with crisp pancetta, this is one of my new favorite recipes. It’s bright and fresh and summery, but still hearty. It’s like a fancy-pants shrimp and grits. I love it!
Pesto Shrimp w/Pancetta & Parmesan Polenta
For the pesto:
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic
3 tbsp. toasted pine nuts (toast them yourself in the oven for a few minutes)
1/2 cup good-quality olive oil
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
3 oz. sliced pancetta, diced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. peeled, de-veined shrimp
1 clove garlic
1.5 cups coarse grind polenta (corn grits)
4.5 cups water
1 tbsp. salt
1/4 cup freshly ground Parmesan cheese
Make the pesto by pulsing the ingredients in a blender or food proccessor until all large pieces are gone. If you don’t have either, mince the garlic and basil as finely as possible and combine with the other ingredients. Set aside.
Place the water, polenta and salt in a large sauce pan and set over high heat. Once it comes to a rolling boil, cover and reduce the heat to medium low. Let cook for 25 – 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the polenta’s done, stir in the Parmesan cheese and adjust the salt level if necessary.
While your polenta cooks, place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the pancetta. Cook the pancetta until it begins to brown and crisp. Remove to a paper towel-covered plate with a slotted spoon. Discard the drippings (mine were too smoky to cook the shrimp in) and wash your skillet.
Add the olive oil the skillet and return to the heat. Saute your shrimp until just opaque, then add the garlic and saute for another minute. Remove from the skillet and toss with 1/4 cup of the pesto.
Spoon the polenta into bowls, top with shrimp and sprinkle with pancetta. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.