Every cook should know how to make a basic pesto, that heavenly, easy-to-make blend of basil leaves, olive oil, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. Once you’ve mastered that technique, provided you’re into face-melting heat (Serranos are HOT), the next logical step is swapping the basil for hot chili peppers. Mario Batali recommends tossing it with trenette, a pasta similar to thin linguine, but it makes a great crostini spread and adds an equally tasty kick to cooked vegetables.
For the pesto
- 6 jalapeño peppers, cored and seeded
- 5 Serrano chilies, cored and seeded
- 1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt, to taste
For the pasta
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 pounds trenette or thin linguine
- 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs, toasted
- Place the jalapenos, serranos, onions, almonds, and olive oil in a food processor and process until smooth.
- Season with salt to taste.
- Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil in a large pasta pot.
- While the water is heating, combine the olive oil and the garlic in a 12- to 14-inch saute pan, and saute over medium high heat until the garlic is almost brown, about 3 minutes.
- Add 1 1/2 cups of the jalapeño pesto and bring to a simmer. When the water comes to a boil, add 2 tablespoons salt.
- Drop the trenette into the boiling water and cook for 1 minute less than the package instructions indicate.
- Just before the pasta is done, carefully ladle 1/4 cup of the cooking water into the pan containing the jalapeño mixture.
- Drain the pasta in a colander and add it to the jalapeño mixture. Toss over medium heat for about 30 seconds, until nicely coated, and then pour it into a warmed bowl.
- Scatter the breadcrumbs over the top and serve immediately.