I've mentioned before that I really got serious about learning to cook when I was living in my first apartment in college. My roommate Emily and I learned to cook from great teachers like Sara Moulton, Emeril and Martha Stewart. With all our time watching the Food Network, we kept hearing about this stuff called "pesto". It sounded amazing and the TV chefs put it on all types of food. We searched through several grocery stores and could never find it. I don't know why it never occurred to us to try and make it. We had attempted just about everything else we heard of - even pierogis. But making pesto never even crossed our minds and we finally decided that it would be impossible to find.
One Christmas when I was home in Vermont, I was grocery shopping with my mom and finally saw it on a shelf near the pasta sauces - a little jar of pesto. I convinced my mom that it was worth the ridiculous $5 that it cost, and I carefully tucked it in my luggage to bring back. The pesto and I both arrived safely back in Utah after that Christmas break and one of the first things I did was show Emily my score. We were so excited to finally get a taste of the elusive pesto. We weren't disappointed. It was incredible to us. Basil has to be my favorite herb, and pesto is a great way to show off its flavor. We enjoyed it on all kinds of food and we were so sad when the jar ran out.
Now I just laugh when I think about how mysterious pesto was, because it seems to be in all kinds of food and it is so easy to find. I've even made it myself, and I'll share my favorite low-fat recipe for it this summer when there's basil aplenty. (Right now, I don't think the little plant in my windowsill could provide enough. It's looking pretty stick-like from being harvested for a recipe I'll share next week.) Despite becoming a more regular part of my diet, I still think pesto is amazingly delicious and love to try its flavor on all kinds of foods. These breadsticks are a natural place to use it. I just love the flavor of pesto and bread. The breadsticks are soft, yet chewy, and filled with a pesto and parmesan. I'm not kidding when I say that my husband and I ate them for dinner one night. We liked them so much we just didn't feel like getting around to the main dish. Every once in a while, I think an unbalanced meal is okay.
Especially when it has pesto in it.
2 cups + 2 T bread flour, plus extra for kneading
1 1/8 tsp instant or rapid rise yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 T olive oil
3/4 cup + 2 T water, warm
1/4 cup prepared pesto
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Food Processor Method:
1. Pulse 2 cups of the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor (fitted with a dough blade if possible) to combine. With the processor running, pour the oil, then the water through the feed tube and process until a rough ball forms, 30-40 seconds. Let the dough rest for 2 minutes, then process for 30 seconds longer.
2. Turn the dough out onto lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball, about 5 minutes, adding the remaining 2 T of flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to the counter. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Whisk 2 cups of the flour, the yeast and salt together in a large bowl. Add the oil and water and stir with a rubber spatula until the dough comes together and looks shaggy. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counted and knead by hand for form a smooth round ball, about 10 minutes, adding remaining flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to the counter. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise as directed in step 2.