Ikarian summer pasta with wild greens pesto recipe

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You can find the original rendition of this dish at Mary Mary, a small, popular tavern in the seaside village of Armenistis, on the north side of Ikaria. The restaurant’s chef-owner, Nikos Politis, takes local traditions and transforms them into modern cuisine with a local twist.

  • Yield: 4 to 6 Servings


  • ⅓ cup (80 ml) Greek pikramigdalo (bitter almond liqueur) or amaretto liqueur
  • ½ cup (120 ml) extra-virgin Greek olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 large zucchini, trimmed, halved lengthwise, and cut into ⅛-inch-thick (3 mm) slices
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons brined capers, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
  • 2 pounds (900 g) mixed non-bitter greens, such as spinach, chard, sorrel—anything, really, that you can access that is a sweet green
  • ½ cup (65 g) pine nuts
  • ½ cup (70 g) almonds
  • ⅔ cup (65 g) grated Kefalograviera, Kefalotyri, or Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound (450 g) Greek hilopites (egg noodles), fettucine, or tagliatelle noodles
  • 1 cup (240 ml) fresh anthotyro or full-fat ricotta cheese
How to Make It
  1. Place the liqueur in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol. Remove from the heat.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini and one-quarter of the garlic and cook until the zucchini is slightly softened but still al dente. Transfer the zucchini mixture to a bowl and set aside, covered to keep warm.
  3. In the same skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil over high heat. Add the capers and fry for a few minutes, until crispy. Set aside on a plate.
  4. Working in batches, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the greens, remaining garlic, the pine nuts, almonds, and cheese and process until pureed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. With the motor running, add enough of the olive oil and liqueur to make a spreadable, pesto. Use a spatula to scrape the pesto into a large bowl, and repeat with the remaining batches.
  5. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and season with salt. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup (240 ml) of the pasta cooking liquid. Immediately add the pasta to the bowl with the pesto and toss to combine. Add the anthotyro, zucchini, and enough of the reserved pasta cooking liquid to make the mixture creamy and toss to combine. Season to taste with pepper, top with the fried capers, and serve.

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