Pesto Potatoes

From Cook's Country | August/September 2013

Why this recipe works:

When we tried dressing cooked potatoes with traditional basil pesto, the spuds soaked up all the moisture, leaving the dish dry and chunky. To loosen our pesto, we upped the oil and added lemon juice for tang. Leaving the pine nuts out of the food processor and, instead, sprinkling them on the… read more

When we tried dressing cooked potatoes with traditional basil pesto, the spuds soaked up all the moisture, leaving the dish dry and chunky. To loosen our pesto, we upped the oil and added lemon juice for tang. Leaving the pine nuts out of the food processor and, instead, sprinkling them on the finished dish helps smooth out the pesto even more. We chose red potatoes for their sturdy, waxy texture and we slice them thin to create as much surface area as possible for the pesto to cling to. Dressing the potatoes while they’re warm lets them absorb maximum flavor, and finishing the dish with toasted nuts and grated cheese adds seasoning and crunch.

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Serves 8

Use small red potatoes measuring 1 to 2 inches in diameter. High-quality Parmesan makes a difference here.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds small red potatoes, unpeeled, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons juice
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed and minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced

Instructions

  1. 1. Combine 2 quarts water, potatoes, and 1 tablespoon salt in Dutch oven and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are easily pierced with tip of paring knife but do not break apart, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain potatoes thoroughly and transfer to large bowl. Let potatoes cool slightly, about 20 minutes.

    2. Meanwhile, toast garlic in 10-inch skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until skins are just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add pine nuts and continue to toast until garlic is spotty brown and pine nuts are golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to plate and let cool slightly.

    3. When cool enough to handle, peel garlic. Process garlic, basil, ¼ cup Parmesan, lemon zest and juice, and 1 teaspoon salt in food processor until coarsely ground, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. With processor running, slowly add oil and process until smooth, about 1 minute.

    4. Add pesto, capers, shallot, pine nuts, and remaining ¼ cup Parmesan to potatoes and stir gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Test Kitchen Discovery: Custom Pesto

To keep the pesto from weighing down the potatoes, we made it lighter and brighter. How? By withholding half of the cheese and all the pine nuts from the initial puree and by adding several flavorful power players. Before serving the dish, we sprinkled whole toasted pine nuts over it.

A BRIGHTER START: We add lemon juice and zest to the traditional basil, garlic, Parmesan, and oil.

A FLAVORFUL FINISH: We stir in capers and shallots for extra flavor and add pine nuts, whole, for crunch.

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