Shiso-Almond Pesto Pasta

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This is a very nutty pesto—just the right sauce for an original wafu spaghetti,
or other culturally crazed noodles, Japanese-style.
You could call this recipe a mistake, or better: say it is an experiment.
Not a failure: just different, and delicious.

I’ll admit that I was a bit “out to lunch” as I prepared this meal from
a lovely recipe I made last August.
The ingredients are simple: blanched almonds, lemon, shiso, and oil.

Toasting the blanched almonds brings forward their richness, sweetness, almond goodness.
As last August’s recipe indicated I filled the measuring cup ¾ full.

I picked a good sized bunch of shiso, rinsed the stems, pulled the leaves off,
and washed them a second time.

The original recipe called for lemon rind and ½ cup of lemon juice,
and I decided to up the Japanese flavor with a few umeboshi as well.
Most pesto recipes include cheese:
it not only adds some umami but also it helps to stick the sauce to the noodles.
I didn’t want to add a cheese flavor but thought cream cheese would fulfill the role of “sticky-ness” without compromising the stronger Japanese flavors.
For dinner, we had wedges of tomatoes and (frozen and thawed) sugar peas to top the noodles.

Ah, so why do I say this is a nutty pesto? Remember above where I said, “As last August’s recipe indicated I filled the measuring cup ¾ full.”??? That measuring cup was a two-cup size. I’d accidentally used twice as many almonds. As soon as I saw how the almonds filled the mini-food processor, I thought I must have used my regular food processor last year. (Yes, even for a simple recipe, one should be aware of what you are doing!) So in went everything, whir, and once I’d added 1½ cups of olive, the mixture was still quite dry. And nut brown.


Yikes! But the folks at chez Tess were hungry (well, not the cat-people who had their reliable portions of canned food), so I just put a portion of the mixture into the small food processor and added a little more oil, and some pasta water. Tasty. Just fine.
For lunch the next day, I processed some more of what I now call my “master pesto base” with more mint and shiso leaves. In this dry hot summer, my poor shiso plants are beginning to turn yellow before they have even bloomed! Mint and shiso was a nice combination.

Wafu Shiso Pesto Pasta
from: Glutton for Life
about 4½ cups

  • 1 ½ cup blanched almonds
    • ¾ cup blanched almonds
  • 1½ tsp sea salt
    • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp lemon rind
    • 2 tsp lemon rind
  • juice from 2 lemons
    • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 3 packed cups stemmed shiso leaves
    • 3 packed cups stemmed shiso leaves
  • 3 Tablespoons cream cheese
  • half dozen umeboshi, pitted
  • 1½ cup olive oil
    • ⅔ cup un-roasted sesame oil

In a food processor, combine all the ingredients except the oil and pulse to chop the leaves and nuts. Add the oil in a thin stream until it somewhat adheres together. Use this pesto base to make smaller quantities of shiso flavored pesto/nut paste.

You can freeze this for later Add different herbs such as mint, basil, parsley, or even more shiso. Place a piece of plastic wrap on a small cookie sheet, spread the pesto base, then freeze. You can keep chunks sealed in ziploc bags to add to other recipes.

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6 thoughts on “Shiso-Almond Pesto Pasta

  1. Pingback: Kimchi, Soba, and Pesto « Tess's Japanese Kitchen

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