2 cups fresh basil
2 large cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4–1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Note: if you won’t be eating it straightaway, you can blanch the basil to preserve its color for storage in the refrigerator or freezer. Plunge it in 30 seconds in boiling water, then shock in ice cold water. Drain and continue with recipe.

Toast the pine nuts over medium heat until just starting to brown. Immediately remove from heat (so they don’t burn) and let cool.

Combine the basil, garlic, pine nuts, and cheese in a blender or food processor. Pulse to combine. Turn the machine on low and drizzle in the olive oil. After a quarter cup, pause and turn the speed up to medium. If you need to, add more oil (our blender will just whizz air around uselessly if the contents are too thick and not liquidy enough). Process until it’s a consistency you like. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Further note: this recipe seems on the more concentrated side, so I only have to use a tablespoon or so to coat 3 ounces of pasta. Reserve a little cooking water and toss with the pasta and pesto to combine and finish over low heat. (I also like to add a bit of red pepper flakes. And an extra finishing sprinkle of salt.)

Easy Sausage Meatballs

1 lb. Italian sausage (spicy or mild)
1 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
1 egg
1/4 cup grated onion
1/4 cup grated parmesan
olive oil (if frying)
1 24-oz. jar spaghetti sauce (if you’re lazy like me) (otherwise make your own sauce)

Squeeze the sausages out of their casings. With your hands, mix together the sausage, breadcrumbs, egg, onion, and parmesan. Form the mixture into 1 to 1.5–inch diameter balls. Sort of toss or throw them between your hands to ensure they’ll stay together while cooking.

Either fry the meatballs up in olive oil over medium heat (2-3 minutes, then roll around and fry the other side) or bake them on a rack over a rimmed pan in the oven for 15–20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Heat the sauce and add the cooked meatballs. Stir gently to combine and let simmer for 15 minutes. Serve with pasta.

Tomato Sauce with Eggplant

Olive oil
1 to 1 1/2 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into roughly 1-cm cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
1/4 cup red wine
1 28-oz. can Trader Joe’s whole peeled plum tomatoes with basil, undrained
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Pinch cumin
Pinch sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Grated parmesan and chopped fresh parsley, to serve

Salt the chopped eggplant liberally and place in a colander. Allow to sit for a half hour, then dry with a paper towel. Set a large saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. When hot, add the eggplant and cook, stirring, until the pieces have softened and taken on some color, 5-7 minutes. Remove from pan.

If the pan is looking dry, add some more oil. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the pieces have turned translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about thirty seconds to a minute, being careful not to burn it. Add the wine and scrape up any fond from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the tomatoes and all the sauce from the can. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes. Return the eggplant to the pan. Add the spices. Simmer for ten minutes or up to an hour or until however long it takes you to get the pasta done (could be no time at all if you timed it well, however, taking a little simmer time to let the flavors meld is always a good idea). Serve atop pasta with parmesan and parsley.