Trenette al Pesto and Disney's Luca Movie


 
Luca, the foodie movie
     Disney's newest offering, Luca, is a a cute movie about a couple of teenage sea monsters. It also happens to have some fun foodie moments. The Italian Riviera setting means that food is featured prominently in the movie. There are scenes with delicious treats such as Italian gelato and freshly baked focaccia. However the star of the show, one of the pasta dishes joyously, and repeatedly eaten is trenette el pesto. Pasta is cooked with garden vegetables, typically potatoes and green beans. But the real piece de resistance in the dish is the pesto. I remember the first time I had pesto, it was swirled through focaccia and the taste was so incredibly bright. It was my first real experience with fresh herbs, especially in large quantity, and was one of those eye opening moments for me, or more accurately, my taste buds. 


     For my family night we watched the movie of course, and dinner went right along with it!  What is more entertaining that being able to experience some of what the characters are right along with them? I made the dish Giulia's dad made throughout the movie, trenette al pesto. Luca and Alberto's enthusiasm made sense as we were devouring deliciously herby, garlicy, pasta too. To add to that we had marinated tomatoes, focaccia, and an array of store bought gelato because it just looked delicious. And seriously, how much fun did those cones coming out of the gelato shops look?



Olive Oil
     Olive oil has had a lot of fame, and a lot of controversy, recently. Most notably that most large scale bottled olive oil is not actually olive oil. And it shows in the product, it just doesn't really taste delicious. If you are cooking with it, it's not quite as noticeable. But I don't actually cook with olive oil most of the time, the delicate flavors and the health benefits are lost. Since I use it to dip bread or make dressings I'm not using it in as large a quantity so I am comfortable paying a bit more for a bottle of the good stuff. Here are a couple things I looked for when purchasing an unfamiliar brand. 

     First is the color, is it a vibrant green or a khaki, military green, possibly even yellow? If it's the latter I'm not likely to purchase the bottle. In the pictures below you can see the yellow color of the poor quality olive oil on the left, and the bright green of the kind I like on the right. The second thing I look for is province. I like the flavors of single farm oils better. You get more specific flavors instead of just a mix of everything; mixing a lot of different olives like that means you end up with the lowest common denominator in terms of flavor. Individual growers bottling their own takes a bit more work and the seller will be proud to put it on the label. So if it's not there, it's probably a miss-mash of olives, if it's even 100% olive oil at all. If it's a mix of countries chances are the oil wont be as intricate in terms of flavor or as high quality. 



     From there personal preference comes in to play. The olives grown in different regions have different properties, which is "better" will depend on what you like. I prefer Sicilian olive oil, it's mellow and fruity and pairs well with everything. It has a great flavor that enhances and isn't just oily, but without being over powering. Israeli olive oil is second but the flavor is a bit stronger. Turkish olive oil is almost a bit spicy and Tunisia has a stronger aftertaste. 

     I really like checking out stores like TJMaxx, HomeGoods, and Tuesday Morning to find interesting oils to try. Some have been good and some have been kinda bland. It's how I discovered Asaro brand olive oil, which is one of my favorites. Asaro can also be purchased on Amazon. If you want to try a really, REALLY, great Israeli olive oil you can purchase directly from the grower check out Galilee Green Olive Oil. They own an orchard in the north of Israel near and it's some of the best I have every had. 




Notes
     The pesto is really what brings this all together. It's such an iconic Italian sauce. It's fresh, it's vibrant, and it's fairly simple to create. Traditionally it's made in a mortar and pestle but the food processor is becoming a new favorite. Toast the nuts, and throw it all in for a quick grind. I mince my garlic the night before and mix it with the olive oil so it has time to sit and mix. It's not required, but if you have time and inclination, it's a nice extra touch. 

     The cheese is also important. Obviously an Italian cheese is traditional and preferred. But if you have another hard cheese on hand, especially if you like the flavor, I'm not above using it. Italian options that I like in pesto are Grana Padano, Parmesan, and Pecorino. Other cheese I find pair well are Manchego, which is Spanish and Aged Gouda which is Dutch. Anything that is hard, salty, and full of flavor are options. Manchego is closest in terms of flavor and easy to find, I like to get large blocks at Sam's club to have on hand at all times. Be careful if you are making a vegetarian version, most hard cheese are made with rennet which is make from the stomach lining of young ruminants, or sheep and cattle, making it not vegetarian. Aged Gouda is typically not made with rennet and is vegetarian. There are also some versions of parmesan that are vegetarian, but most are not. 
      
      And speaking of Sam's club, their bottles pesto is fantastic. It's still bright green from not being cooked and is great if you don't wanna make your own. It's the only store bought pesto I will use. I like to use half a bottle and freeze the other half for later. It's a great way to bring a delicious dinner together quickly and save time on the pesto. 

Trenette al Pesto Recipe
1 lb. fettuccini pasta
3/4 lb. potatoes
3/4 lb. green beans
3/4 c. pesto (recipe to follow)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 

Cut the potatoes in half if using small potatoes or cubes if using regular. Slice the green beans. 

Add the potatoes to the water and boil for 4 minutes. 

Add the green beans and pasta and continue cooking for 7-9 minutes or until the pasta is tender. 

Drain and toss with the pesto. Serve with extra cheese on top. 

Pesto Recipe
3 c. basil leaves
2 oz. Hard cheese 
1/4 c. (heaping) toasted pine nuts
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 c. olive oil

Place the basil, cheese, pine nuts, garlic, salt, and pepper, in the food processor. Pulse until chopped but not a fine mince. With the food processor still running, drizzle the olive slowly in until it is finely chopped. Taste and check for seasoning adjusting as needed. 



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