Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Macadamia Nut Tomato Pesto

125“What’s wrong with these tomatoes, Miss?” a girl asked me as I was running from group to group during cooking day in my culinary class.

I stopped, mid-crazy. “What do you mean, what’s wrong with them?”

“They’re so red. And soft. Are these rotten?”025

I scrunched my eyes up and studied her face. She wasn’t kidding. “Hmmm. No. They’re perfect. Maybe you didn’t know that store bought tomatoes are usually never ripe. And they’re crunchy.” Disgusting, too, I stopped myself from adding.

She still looked skeptical.

When I had decided to make the trifecta of pasta sauces, pesto, alfredo, and marinara, with my class, I didn’t know they weren’t yet familiar with basics of the kitchen. These teens had never been to a land where tomatoes are not crunchy, the stoves are not all electric, and where pasta sauce doesn’t come out of a jar. 011

So in between looking for the source of the unlit gas stove smell and explaining that one clove of garlic wasn’t the same as the entire head, I was smacking myself on the forehead for my ambitious plan. When I had done my planning, my thought was, “Oh yeah, this will be easy peasy.” 

Maybe I should have stuck to box cake mixes. 017

Each group got a basic recipe for one of the sauces and a box of pasta. The groups had to come ask me for cooking tools and ingredients, as the kitchens are not stocked. I quickly realized that in addition to the two stockpots I brought from my own home, there was only 1 more in the whole classroom. When representatives from each group came to me to get ingredients they’d forgotten how much of whatever it was they were supposed to get. Most forgot to get the water boiling until about half way through class, so we were cutting it close to finishing a 20 minute dish in 70 minutes.

The week before I had taught them about plating (whatever little I know) and we were supposed to do a plating and photography session with the pasta, but since we were running down to the wire this is about as good as I got:

Success. 015

And I guarantee you that some of them will still crack a jar of Prego for dinner this weekend.

But at least they know that parmesan cheese isn’t actually that nasty stuff you get in a green can. 008009

Over the weekend I was looking at the leftover tomatoes I had picked up from the Shintaku’s farm, Green Growers, in Hau’ula. They have some lovely tomatoes and amazingly priced compared to the store. Terry was nice enough to send a few pounds my way for free since I was using them for my class.

107I thought about the price of pine nuts climbing 300% and the mildew that’s making sweet basil scarce in our islands right now. It suddenly made sense to throw that basic pesto recipe out, however tasty.

No matter how expensive mac nuts are, I bet they’re cheaper than those pine nuts. Pine nuts are going for $30 a bag at the Costco here. 116

Macadamia Nut Tomato Pesto

This pesto is similar to a marinara but the meatiness of the macadamia nuts gives the sauce some girth. It clings better and the nuts cut a bit of the acid in the tomatoes as well. The sauce goes best with a long pasta, like spaghetti or linguini.

Oh, and use real tomatoes, please. The soft, red ones.

  • 2/3 C macadamia nuts
  • 1 lb tomatoes (about 6 small or 4 medium)
  • 2 Tablespoons loosely packed Thai basil (or 1 tsp dried if none is available)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 C grated parmesan or Romano cheese (not that they’re the same, but Romano is an option in a pinch)
  • 4 Tablespoons of olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp salt or more to taste
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1 lb pasta such as linguini, fettuccine, spaghetti or bucatini
  1. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add salt to taste. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, in a skillet over medium heat, dry toast the macadamia nuts until lightly browned, stirring frequently (about 3-4 minutes).
  3. Roughly chop the tomatoes, basil, and garlic. Put these in a food processor/cuisinart fitted with the blade attachment. Add the macadamia nuts, grated parmesan cheese, 3 Tablespoons of olive oil and process until pureed, about 30 seconds. The macadamia nuts should be small but visible.
  4. In the now empty skillet, heat the final tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the tomato sauce and stir frequently until the color changes to become more red and the sauce is reduced just slightly, about 5 minutes. Add salt as necessary to taste, and a pinch of sugar.
  5. Add the pasta directly to the sauce in the skillet. Toss to coat. Serves 6-8, Serve with more parmesan if you wish.




Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama} said...

Oooh I bet this is great with macadamia nuts. I'll have to save this one for summer when I can get nice ripe, red tomatoes. :-)

Eliana said...

What a fun take on pesto. This looks super super delish.

vtkitchen said...

i never knew that tomatoes were supposed to be mushy when you eat them! see, you taught me something too. i think it's great that you're finding a way to sub. things like macadamia nuts in for pine nuts. its crazy how the weather and logistical issues are affecting the price of food these days. but that's what happens when population grows and abundance disappears.

All That's Left Are The Crumbs said...

I love the sound of this pesto. Nothing beats a beautiful ripe, red tomato. I remember when I lived in Guam the supermarkets had a very weird shade of orange tomatoes. I guess they were picked green and were supposed to ripen but it was never going to happen.

FootPrints said...

so. do i have to be enrolled in your school to take your class?

Liz That Skinny Chick Can Bake said...

Gorgeous pasta dishes! How lucky those students are to have you...what a wonderful education :)

~Lisa~ said...

There's always something satisfying with home made sauces. I'd love to take a cooking class. And I'd love to be in Hawaii right now (=

Tanvi@Sinfully Spicy said...

What delectable spread of pasta...YUM!! I am in for macademia so love the nutty bite in pastas.Your homemade sauce looks too good.

Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels said...

Wow does that look amazing! I love how you used macadamia nuts, they're one of my favorite nuts. I will definitely be trying this out, it sounds soooo good! :)

Kate @ said...

Oh that is a delicious pesto! Wow... would love to eat up what's in that plate!

We grow our own tomatoes so once winter rolls around and we're totally out of the real stuff, I have to buy them at the grocery store... as you said, disgusting!

marla said...

I just submitted this beauty to Stumble. Love the idea of macadamia nuts in a pasta pesto. Thank goodness parm is not just found in green cans ;)

briarrose said...

Macadamia nuts are a great choice for pesto. I must try this out.

Jackie said...

Wow, I can only think what amazing things macadamia nuts would do to this pesto. Yum! A definite must-try for when I get home ;)

Jax x

Randism said...

wow! your dishes are just amazing! i'm sure your friends are begging you to be a full-time cook and open your own place! it'd be standing room only!!!

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