A passion for pesto

Assistant Chef Aaron Fitzsenry and Taylor Viggiano ’17 welcomed students to a pesto pasta cooking class in the Ivy Room on Sunday. 

(Photos courtesy of Taylor Viggiano, ’17, and recipes courtesy of Aaron Fitzsenry.)

Students handmade noodles from scratch and experimented with flavors to each create their own pesto pasta dish. Check out the recipes below!


Basil pesto:

2 cups basil leaves, packed

2 – 3 cloves garlic

Half cup Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup sunflower seeds or pine nuts

2/3 cup olive oil, extra virgin preferred

Pinch salt and pepper

Process garlic and basil leaves in food processor, blender or any other device that will demolish food into a nice paste. Add Parmesan cheese and half of olive oil until ingredients are well incorporated. Add sunflower seeds or pine nuts and pulse to leave some texture. Season with salt and pepper.

If you would like to freeze this in ice cube trays, for the remaining olive oil over the tops to keep the pesto from turning color. If consuming soon, incorporate the rest of olive oil and enjoy!

Chef’s note: This is a ratio and not a rule. Pesto is just the Italian word for pulverized. Feel free to substitute arugula or spinach or anything else you love in place of the herbs and your favorite hard, sharp cheese in place of Parmesan or Romano.

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Fresh pasta for 4-6

3.5 cups flour

4 eggs

A pinch of salt

Mound the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs. Using a fork, beat together the eggs and begin to incorporate the flour starting with the inner rim of the well. As you incorporate the eggs, keep pushing the flour up to retain the well shape (do not worry if it looks messy). The dough will come together in a shaggy mass when about half of the flour is incorporated.

Start kneading the dough with both hands, primarily using the palms of your hands. Add more flour, in 1/2-cup increments if the dough is too sticky. Once the dough is a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up any left over dry bits. Lightly flour the board and continue kneading for three more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Continue to knead for another three minutes, remembering to dust your board with flour when necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set it aside for 20 minutes at room temperature. Roll and form as desired.

Note: Do not skip the kneading or resting portions of this recipe, they are essential for a light pasta.


Simple red sauce

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 Spanish onion, 1/4-inch dice

4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved

Pinch salt

Fresh basil and oregano

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about eight to 10 minutes. If using dried herbs, add and cook two minutes more until the herbs absorb some oil. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a low simmer, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and fresh herbs and serve. This sauce holds one week in the refrigerator or up to six months in the freezer.


Simple alfredo

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

3-4 oz flour

1 cup vegetable stock

1 pint heavy cream

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Freshly cracked black pepper

Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Cook butter and flour together until light golden.  Add warm vegetable stock and whisk until smooth.  Gradually add cream or milk until desired consistency.  Finish with Parmesan, pepper and parsley.

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