Spaghetti with Jalapeno and Serrano Pesto

Jalapeno and serrano pesto is a spicy take on traditional pesto! Perfect for tossing with spaghetti, or save the leftovers as a sandwich spread or to drizzle over eggs. 

Spicy jalapeno and serrano pesto pasta has a kick!
Spicy jalapeno and serrano pesto pasta has a kick!

We're back from Yellowstone! I'm not sure why that statement necessitated an exclamation mark, because it was one of the hardest vacations to return to the real world from. Even though we spent 12 hours (!!) exploring the park each day, I wish we had another week to see more of the backcountry.  It was one of the most incredible places I've ever visited.

So, today's recipe, which is not at all Yellowstone related.

When scanning a menu, there are a few ingredients where if I see them listed in a dish, there's no way I can resist. 

One is avocado (duh), another is sun-dried tomato (mmm), and of course cheese has to make the list (specifically brie, Roquefort, or feta - gah, I love cheese!)

. And last but not least, pesto. 

Pesto is a perfect blend of the most flavorful ingredients - fresh herbs, toasted nuts, parmesan cheese, extra-virgin olive oil and garlic.  There's no way it won't turn out delicious!

I've made my own pesto since college, and in the last 5 (or is it 6?) years, I think I've tried every possible combination. 

Many times I'll simply throw together leftover herbs with a handful of whatever nuts I have on hand, oil, and garlic. 

Spicy jalapeno and serrano pesto! Perfect with pasta or dolloped over tacos!
Spicy jalapeno and serrano pesto! Perfect with pasta or dolloped over tacos!

If you're still stuck in boring basil pesto land (real place), try out some of my favorite pestos:

Raw broccoli pesto

- Simply pulse together chopped, raw broccoli, toasted almonds or walnuts, a couple garlic cloves, lemon juice, and maybe a little basil or oregano

with olive oil. 

It is delicious mixed with whole grain pasta for an easy balanced meal. Serve leftovers spread on toasted whole grain bread as crostini or tossed with a cooked whole grain, like farro, for a simple side dish.

Sun-dried tomato pesto

-

This

is my favorite for a sandwich spread since it's flavorful enough to stand up to other sandwich fillings and still shine.

Want to blow your mind with awesomeness?  Of course you do.  Make a grilled cheese sandwich with fresh mozzarella and sun-dried tomato pesto. Kaboom.

Cilantro pepita

– Substitute cilantro for basil and raw pumpkin seeds for pine nuts. Drop the cheese and you've got the perfect sauce for Mexican dishes.

Spice up a bean and brown rice burrito or spoon it over a taco. Specifically a grilled zucchini and portobello taco. 

With feta cheese, obviously.  

Bitter greens

– Try mustard greens or

dandelion greens

. I tried both these in

Asheville

at their local farmer's market.

It got me dreaming of all sorts of uses for bitter green pesto in Southern dishes – tossed into a black-eyed pea salad, drizzled over sliced heirloom tomatoes, served with beer-can chicken, or even mixed into grits!

Arugula

– I often substitute arugula for basil to save money.

It's perfect for enriching the flavor of vegetable soups or tossed with roasted root vegetables.

Ricotta

- To make a flavorful, but light cheese sauce, substitute part skim ricotta cheese for olive oil.

Roasted red pepper -

So delicious tossed with whole grain pasta, kalamata olives and lots of parmesan! I eat leftovers spread on whole grain crackers or on roasted cauliflower.

Green pea -

Another

budget friendly

option! Use leftovers as a dip for crudites.

I thought I had tried all the pesto the world had to offer.  Then I saw this recipe from Mario Batalli. Fun fact - Mario Batalli gave me a quick smooch on the lips at an event in New Orleans. Don't worry, no scandal here. It was in front of my husband who fully approved and laughed heartily. My first thought was that it was weird and probably wouldn't work, but since Mario and I are connected, I knew I could trust him and his spicy chili pesto.

Toss with whole grain pasta and use leftovers to dress tacos, dollop over eggs or in a sandwich to add kick.

Fettuccine with Jalapeno and Serrano Pesto

Serves:

Serves 8, with leftover pesto

This recipe calls for a ridiculous amount of chilies. Don’t be afraid. The seeds contain most of the heat, so it’s not as spicy as you might expect. I froze the leftovers, which I plan on incorporating as a sauce for grilled vegetable tacos. Adapted from Mario Batali Simple Family Meals.

Ingredients

  • 6 fresh jalapeno peppers, cored and seeded
  • 5 fresh serrano chiles, cored and seeded
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup blanched, sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus 1 tablespoon
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb 100% whole grain fettuccine
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs or fresh whole grain breadcrumbs, toasted

Instructions

  1. Place the jalapenos, serranos, red onion, almonds and 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil in the food processor. Process to a smooth puree then season with salt to taste.
  2. Cook the pasta in salted water according to package instructions until al dente and drain, reserving 1/2 cup starchy cooking water.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 3 minutes. Add pesto and stir to combine with the garlic. Reduce heat to medium and simmer.
  4. Return drained pasta to the pot. Add 1 1/2 cups pesto and starchy cooking water and toss to combine. Pour into a serving dish and garnish with panko.