I’ve always wanted to know how to make the perfect creamy pesto. While I've had plenty of vibrantly green and creamy pestos out at restaurants, I've never been able to capture that same richness with the more pulverized results of the traditional muddled pesto recipe. Pesto itself refers not to a sauce made with basil, but to the actual process of crushing and grinding the ingredients together with a mortar and pestle. Even when I used my food processor to make a quick pesto of greens and basil, I ended up with a dark green sauce and not the near neon color of the stuff I've encountered when out to eat. Was it the emulsion of the oil? Was it the addition of cream or cheese? I was never sure!
Then I came across a recipe on Instagram by A Cozy Kitchen. This recipe was for Tallarines Verde, which is a Peruvian green sauce that includs basil, loads of spinach, evaporated milk, and queso fresco. The best part? It can be make simply in the blender, with minimal prep and chopping to be done. The resulting sauce was beautifully vibrant and satisfyingly creamy in a deeply comforting way. I love that this sauce uses spinach, one of my favorite greens, as I've been trying to perfect a spinach pesto for years! Had I never stumbled across her post, I would never have found the answer to all of my pesto problems. This is such a simple recipe, so quick to throw together, it will certainly be taking it's place in my "go-to's" list of simple meals. I made the minor change of swapping evaporated milk for half and half, because that's what I had on hand, but the rest is as A Cozy Kitchen wrote it!
Tallarines Verde from A Cozy Kitchen
- 2 cups packed spinach leaves
- 1 cup packed basil leaves
- 5 ounces (1 cup) cubed queso blanco or queso fresco, plus more for garnish
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 shallot, peeled
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup half and half
- Pinch of salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 pound dried pasta
- To a blender, add the spinach leaves, basil, queso blanco, garlic cloves, shallot, walnuts, olive oil, half and half and a pinch of salt and a few turns of freshly cracked pepper. Blend for 30 seconds to a minute, scraping down the sides as needed. Give the green sauce a taste and adjust the salt accordingly (this type of cheese tends to be quite salty so you may only need a pinch or two extra).
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add your pasta to the water and cook according to package’s directions. Once cooked al dente, drain the pasta, and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Add the pasta back to the pot and pour in the green sauce. Toss the pasta until it's thoroughly coated. You can add a splash or two of the reserved pasta water to the pasta to thin the sauce out a bit, if necessary. Divide between bowls and garnish with some queso fresco crumbles and freshly cracked pepper.
The sauce also stores well in the fridge, if covered and carefully sealed in an air tight jar!