Up until about a year ago I had never made homemade pesto. Instead I just used the pesto that comes in a plastic container or a jar at the grocery store. And then after I made homemade pesto there was no going back. It is so simple and easy, and the flavors are so much purer and fresher than anything you can buy at the store, not to mention so much more vibrant. With all of the fresh basil that we have been getting from the CSA recently this pesto was the perfect way to use up some of it. We also have a monster zucchini in the fridge still waiting to be used, but I can only use one monster zucchini per night. I thought about whipping together a quick zucchini bread this evening to use up the other monster zucchini, but that is going to have to wait until tomorrow. Or maybe Friday. But enough about that, back to tonight's dinner.
I loved the addition of the lemon to the basil in the pesto, and then the touch of heat from the red pepper flakes. As much as I love spice, I wouldn't use more than a small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes because you don't want the heat from the pepper to overwhelm the summery flavors of the pesto. With the combination of the pesto, the zucchini, the shrimp, and the ozro, the dish tasted like summer on a plate to me. It there had just been some heirloom tomatoes and summer corn then it really would have been summer on a plate!
Recipe after the jump!
Shrimp and Zucchini Orzo with Lemony Basil Pesto
2 tbsp pine nuts
2 cups loosely-packed basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
zest from one lemo
6 tbsp evoo, separated
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup orzo
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced into half-circles (we used one incredibly huge zucchini, but I have never seen zucchini this large before)
In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the pine nuts are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Let the pine nuts cool. In a food processor, combine the pine nuts, basil, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest and 6 tbsp evoo with brief pulses until the pesto starts to become creamy. Add the parm-reg and pulse until smooth. Season to taste with s&p and set aside.
Cook orzo according to package instructions in a large pot of boiling, salted water. When the orzo is finished, drain and return to pan. Don't drain the orzo too thoroughly because you want to retain some of the hot pasta water to make the pesto coat the orzo better. Toss the orzo with the pesto, reserving 2 tbsp of pesto.
Meanwhile, heat a large cast-iron skillet over moderately high heat. Add 2 tbsp evoo. Once the oil is hot, add red pepper flakes and zucchini. Season with s&p. Cook, stirring often, until zucchini begins to turn translucent and tender, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan using tongs. Add shrimp to the pan. Season with s&p. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp is fully cooked, about 3-4 minutes. Return the zucchini to the pan and stir to combine.
Spoon orzo onto a serving platter and top with shrimp and zucchini mixture. Top with dollops of pesto and serve immediately.