Because basil is finicky to grow from seed outdoors—and doesn’t last as long once it gets going—we’re currently on our second planting of basil in the indoor Aerogarden, timed (hopefully) to coincide with the ripening of our larger heirloom tomatoes. Unfortunately, this means we’re currently having to buy basil, as I did for a lemon-basil cake I made for a party this past weekend. Do you have any idea how much basil costs in the store? Either $1.99 for a few limp sprigs packed into a plastic clamshell case, or upward of $3.50 for a “hydroponically grown” (with, incomprehensibly, dirt clods attached to the roots) or living bunch. You’d better believe I’m using every last minuscule leaf of that stuff. All I had left was enough for a sprinkling over this vaguely Greek-inspired pasta, which is good hot but even better cold as a salad. I must say, though, the basil completely made the dish, and may have earned it a spot in our regular rotation once the home-grown basil gets going.
As below it makes about 4 large servings. As previously mentioned, it’s fine hot but even better—in my opinion—cold.
• 12 oz. pasta of your choice: $1
• 20-25 kalamata olives, slivered (we buy a big jar of these at Costco—they keep forever in their brine): 50 cents
• 4 T cream: 20 cents
• 4 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated: $1.50
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped: 5 cents
• 3 T olive oil: 18 cents
• A few large handfuls of basil, torn (I’m not counting this since it came out of another budget and we don’t usually buy it): $0
• Juice of 1 1/2-2 lemons, to taste: 60 cents
• Salt & pepper: 2 cents
TOTAL: $4.05/4 = $1.01/serving
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Return to the pot and add the garlic, olive oil, olives, cream, Parmesan, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste (you might not need any salt because of the cheese and olives). Serve with a generous sprinkling of torn basil leaves.