In France, pesto is enriched with an umami bomb

In France, pesto is enriched with an umami bomb

Never outdone by their Italian neighbors, chefs in Provence have their own aromatic version of pesto. We first encountered pesto in Marseille where a basil and garlic sauce is mixed without cooking into a delicious bean soup. But the variations are many, and yes, they will also mix it with pasta.

For this pappardelle recipe from our book Tuesday Nights on the Mediterranean, which showcases weeknight meals from the region, we took inspiration from Richard Olney’s classic book, Loulou’s Provençal Table. The sauce comes together quickly in a food processor and is redolent with the bold flavors of the south of France — peppery basil and abundant garlic, of course, but also rich anchovies for an extra burst of umami.

We finish the sauce pasta with toasted chili breadcrumbs (we prefer panko for its light, fluffy texture) for a subtle spiciness and a welcome textural contrast to the al dente noodles.

Pappardelle is a wide, flat, ribbon-like pasta, often made from eggs and shaped into nests before drying. If not available, tagliatelle is the best substitute, followed by fettuccine.

Don’t forget to reserve some of the cooking liquid before draining the pasta. Adding a small amount of starchy water while stirring the anchovy and basil puree into the noodles helps create a silky sauce that coats the pappardelle.

Pappardelle with basil, anchovies and toasted bread crumbs

Start to finish: 35 minutes

Meals: 4

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

Half a cup of panko bread crumbs

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

12 ounces dried pappardelle pasta

2 ounces oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained (12 fillets)

3 medium-sized garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

2 cups fresh basil, lightly packed

In a 10-inch skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the panko, pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.

In a large pot, bring 4 liters of water to a boil. Add the pasta and a tablespoon of salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked. Reserve about a quarter cup of the cooking water, then drain it and return the pasta to the pot.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the anchovies, garlic, a pinch of salt and black pepper to form a chunky paste, about 5 seconds. Scrape the bowl. Add the basil and mix until finely chopped, 8 to 10, then scrape down the bowl. With the machine running, add 1/2 cup of oil, then process until well blended, 8 to 10 seconds.

Add the anchovy puree and basil to the pasta, stir to combine, and add the reserved pasta water as needed until the sauce covers the pasta. Serve sprinkled with toasted bread crumbs.


Editor’s Note: For more recipes, go to Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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