How do you make a good pesto? A good dish of any kind?
It all comes down to quality ingredients; the better they are—the more gratifying the experience.
With shrimp I can’t bring myself to buy frozen. Yes, you can always defrost but the risk of excess water during the cooking process can spoil a perfectly good sauce and kill what used to be flavorful fish. I also like to keep things organic, especially when using lemon zest. But organic doesn’t mean the peel is pristine and completely free of toxins. That’s why I scrub and vinegar those bad boys without prejudice.
When making any type of pesto, take your time pulsing the ingredients, slowly adding oil until you reach that magical, grainy, yet borderline creamy consistency.
Timing is everything here. So when your pasta is about half way cooked, that’s when you should begin to cook the shrimp. Be careful; these suckers cook fast! Depending on the size, it could take from 4 – 7 minutes. As a rule of thumb, shrimp should never be pink and somewhat straight (they’re totally undercooked). They should form a “C” but never curl up into a fist—unless you consider chomping down on a tasteless shoe sole appealing.
REMEMBER: Add about 1/2 a ladle of pasta water to your shrimp before straining the pasta. Quickly add the pesto to the shrimp. Remove it from the heat! Stir the pesto up a bit in the pasta water and shrimp juices, then add your strained pasta to the pan. Coat that pasta like it’s nobody’s business. Bet you a hundred bucks you’re already smiling!
Enjoy this lovely first course and feel free to send comments or questions along the way!