Fresh pesto is delicious, easy, and bursting with flavor. It’s also incredibly versatile in that you can use many different types of greens to modify the flavor. Today I was so happy my experiment with turning French mâche into delicious Pesto proved to be delightful and nutritious.
To make the pesto, I paired the mâche lettuce (pronounced [mosh]) with champagne pear vinegar because both are so delicate and flavorful. I kept the dish very simple; I tossed pasta with garlic and a little cream. Once the pasta was well coated, I added the mâche pesto and finished the dish with lemon zest and colorful peppercorns.
The flavor combination was inspired by store-bought lemon pepper-flavored pappardelle pasta. I repeated the same flavors using lemons, green, pink and black peppercorns and a touch of champagne pear vinegar (doesn't that sound luxurious?) that I recently received from our friend Jacilyn from Bellindora. This company is four-generation family owned and is located in the heart of California's San Joaquin wine country. I've tried both their premium vinegars (cherry balsamic and champagne vinegar) as well as their fruity extra-virgin olive oil and they make wonderful pestos and salad dressings. If you want to win this trio of bottles, enter today's Bellindora giveaway!
Make sure you're a fan of PhamFatale Facebook fan page or follow @Phamfatalecom and tweet about this giveaway. To make it easy, you can just copy and paste this tweet if you’d like: "Champagne Pear & Balsamic Cherry Vinegars + EVOO #Giveaway from @Phamfatalecom and Bellindora: http://bit.ly/sp4V7y".
Servings: 6 servings
2 (8-ounce) packages pappardelle pasta (see tips)
½ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Champagne pear vinegar
½ cup olive oil, as needed
1 shallot, finely chopped
¼ cup heavy cream (optional)
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1-½ tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup herb-flavored goat cheese, at room temperature
1-½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pink, green and black peppercorn medley, freshly cracked
For the mâche: Wash the mâche. Quickly blanch it for about 5-10 seconds in boiling salted water and transfer to an ice bath, to maintain a bright green color. Drain thoroughly of all water and pat dry on paper towels. Coarsely chop.
For the mâche pesto: In a blender (or a mini-food prep if you have one), combine the mâche, lemon zest, 1 clove of garlic, Champagne pear vinegar, Parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. You might want to add about 2 tablespoons (or more) of water for a smooth flow. Set aside.
For the parppadelle pasta: In a pot, add about 6 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta, bring back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. That way the pasta will cook all the way through evenly. Cook the pasta for about 12 minutes total. Salt the water half-way through the cooking process and keep stirring every now and then so the pasta doesn't stick to the bottom. It may take longer than the cooking time that's written on the package. Set aside.
In a large non-stick sauté pan, heat a little olive oil. Add the shallots and cook until fragrant. With a slotted spoon, drain the pasta (reserve some of the pasta water) and transfer to the pan. Using tongs, toss the pasta for about 3-4 minutes with lemon juice. Season with salt and the cracked peppercorns. Finish with heavy cream (if used) or pasta water (for a healthier version).
If the pasta starts sticking to the bottom, add more pasta water. Toss well for another 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the mâche pesto. Toss well until nicely coated. Adjust seasoning.
Garnish with diced goat cheese, more peppercorns and lemon zest.
You can store the pesto in your freezer for up to 6 months or up to 2 weeks in your refrigerator. I always make extra to store in the freezer. I usually store the rest in an ice-cube tray and freeze it. Later, I transfer the ice-cubes 3 by 3 into bags that I vacuum-seal and place back in the freezer for future use. I add these cubes to sauces or marinades; the possibilities are endless.
You can find French mâche (also known as "lamb's ear lettuce" in the U.S.) at Trader Joe's. A 4-ounce bag costs $2.49. It's a little pricey but it is worth it. It's by far my favorite lettuce. I buy several bags every time I go to Trader Joe's. I sometimes add it to make green drinks or fruit smoothies. You could substitute spinach, arugula, parsley, cilantro, basil or even regular salad lettuce for the mâche.
I also bought the pasta at Trader Joe's. Parpadelle pasta is a flat, wide ribbon-shaped pasta. You could replace it with fettucine pasta.
I buy herb-flavored goat cheese (it's pre-diced) at my favorite local market called the Milk Pail Market. The address is 2585 California Street, Mountain View, CA 94040.
I like the addition of pink peppercorns at the end. They have a delicate, sweet, and spicy flavor. They are reminiscent of a mild citrus zest and sweet berries and are perfect with the pesto. Pink peppercorns work especially well in fruit sauces, vinaigrettes and seafood. These peppercorns have a rich rose color that adds an elegant appearance to any cuisine.