I want to interrupt Nat’s guest post briefly to say a quick CHEERS to the recent engagement of Natalie and Oliver! It really feels like yesterday that we were sitting in our apartment in Italy and Nat was telling me all about her new(ish) bf back in the states. You two were made for each other, and I know y’all will live a life full of love, travel, and great great food 😉
SO SO SO happy for y’all! love, Amy and Jen
Happy to be invited back for my second post on From J to Z. I thought I’d pare it down a bit giving you a twist on an old classic, the recipe for which I picked up during my time in Italy. Amy and I actually lived together, with the most special Florentine family you could hope to meet, one-hundred-and-five marble stairs above the intersection of Cento Stelle and Calatafimi. Our Italian Mama made pesto for us on our first night in their home and eventually agreed to teach me the recipe (see original recipe scribbles below). I usually don’t deviate from this original, but I couldn’t resist testing this version I conjured while lingering by the fish counter a few weeks ago. Ssshhh, don’t tell the Italians. This week, impress someone worthy with this Tuscan Black Kale and Basil Pesto with Whole Wheat Pasta and Black Pepper Poached Clams.
For the Pesto
1½ cups Tuscan black kale, washed, dried!, and gently packed
1 cup basil, washed, dried!, and gently packed
heaping ½ cup Parmesan, cubed
½ cup pine nuts, raw
1 tsp kosher salt
Method—This is simple, really. Just gather the ingredients, treat them well (tell them you love them), and then hands off. It’s done. Add the Parm, pine nuts, basil, kale, and salt to a food processor. Pulse until everything has been roughly chopped and barely holds together in a paste. Empty the mixture into a medium mixing bowl and stream in good olive oil, steadily stirring until you have a silky consistency. Taste. Is it delish? I thought so. Set aside to tend to the clams.
For the Clams
freshly scrubbed littleneck clams (8-12 per person)
½ cup water
hefty amount of black pepper (we’re talking freshly ground here, not sprinkled from that perforated-top Kroger Foods pepper tin that your mom supplied you with for your first pantry)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Method—Add the clams and water to a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and cover. Once the water has come to a boil peek inside to see if any of those bivalves have succumb to their steamy fate. Remove the clams from the pan as they open (this should take between 6 and 12ish minutes) and set aside until they have cooled enough to handle. Pluck meat and then discard the shells.
There should be a good amount of liquid in the bottom of your sauté pan. Turn the heat on and reduce until the flavor concentrates, but the broth is not too salty. You can always add a few tablespoons of water if you take it too far. Add the butter, all of that fresh pepper, and the clams, basting them in the hot liquid for one point five to two minutes…just until they’re perfectly coated and cooked.
Meanwhile cook ½ lb pasta in generously salted water until al dente and drain, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water. Add ½ cup of the pesto, a few tablespoons of reserved water and a few tablespoons of the clam broth to the pasta pot. Add pasta and toss until well coated, adding more pesto as needed. Divvy. Top each serving with the black pepper clams and the rest of the clammy broth. Serve with an artfully cut slice of lemon. Enjoooooy. Send me a love letter.
**Nat’s original recipe sketch from our time in Italy, when our host mama told us this recipe**