One of my favorite websites for Texas history is the Texas Almanac, an on-line resource from the Texas State Historical Society. This wonderful site includes a wealth of information for those seeking information about our collective Texas heritage. I wanted to learn more about Italians in Texas, and this was my go-to site.
Even though Italy never placed a flag on our lands, Texas has been blessed with a substantial influx of Italians, some coming in the early years alongside the Spanish explorers. The Battle of San Jacinto of 1836 (the decisive battle during Texas’ struggle for independence from Mexico) included at least one Italian-born solder, Prospero Bernardi. Another Italian immigrant, Frank Qualia, established Texas’ oldest continuously running winery, the Vel Verde Winery, in 1883. Add the contributions of Italian cuisine – with its emphasis on the freshest and highest-quality ingredients available – Texas is indeed fortunate to have this cultural addition to our state.
Pesto has a long history of its own, with pounded basil traced back to ancient Persia and Rome. Traditional ingredients include the basil combined with pine nuts, garlic, and parmesan cheese. It is a wonderful food that can be spread on toasted bread slices and tossed with pasta.
These days, though, cooks have a habit of honoring the past by using old recipes to inspire new options. Instead of basil, we use spinach (so easy to grow in Texas) and instead of pine nuts we use Texas pecans. I love traditional pesto, but found spinach pesto helpful when making an appetizer because spinach seems to retain its bright green color better than basil.
I covered tomatoes and mozzarella cheese balls with this pesto and served it all on a little toothpick. You could spread some spinach pesto on your next grilled Panini sandwich, or toss it with some pasta. As always, enjoy!
Keep it vegetarian by using a vegetarian cheese.
Make it vegan by using a vegan cheese.
4 oz spinach leaves, about 2 cups packed
¼ t sea salt
pinch ground white pepper
1 lg garlic clove, minced
½ C pecans, toasted about 10 minutes, and crushed
½ C parmesan cheese, grated
¼ C olive oil
- Grind the spinach leaves in a food processor with some salt and pepper.
- Add the minced garlic, pecans, and cheese and pulse until mixed.
- Add olive oil until you have the consistency you prefer.
- Store covered in the refrigerator up to a week.