Pesto Pasta with Mozzarella & Olive “Eyes”
For the pesto:
4 cups tightly packed basil leaves
3 tablespoons pine nuts
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, kept cold
For the pasta and toppings:
½ pound spaghetti
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
small balls mozzarella cheese, drained and cut in half
sliced black olives
1-2 cups grated parmesan plus more for topping, if desired
To prepare the pesto:
Heat a pot of water to a boil. Fill a boil with ice water. Blanch the basil for a few seconds then transfer to the ice water to cool completely. Remove as soon as the leaves are chilled and wring out any excess water with a lint-free cloth or paper towels, set aside. Pulse the pine nuts in a food processor a few times, and the basil and a big pinch of salt, process a times. When the food processing running, drizzle in the chilled ½ cup of olive oil. Set aside while you cook the pasta.
Heat a large pot of salted-water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti until your desired doneness. While the pasta cooks, heat the 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan. Cook the garlic until soft and fragrant but not browned. Drain the cooked pasta and toss the pasta into the garlic oil. Remove from the heat, toss in as much pesto and parmesan cheese as desired. Taste for seasoning. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Dot with the half circles of mozzarella cheese, flat cut side up. Top each piece of mozzarella with a sliced black olive to resemble an eye. Serve with more parmesan on top, if desired.