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Elevate Your Ramen Game with a Simple Pesto Recipe

A Korean kid from Oklahoma beats the Italians at their own game.

Gabriele Stabile

If you asked a group of home cooks, college kids and men who have no business being in a kitchen, they’d say ramen noodles are great because they’re easy. Anybody can boil noodles for three minutes. But these Asian noodles aren’t just limited to simple soups and crouton-like crunchies on salads; they can be the focal point of a delicious entree. Just ask Chef Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco and New York. His recipe below, which is taken from Lucky Peach Presents: 101 Easy Asian Recipes, will show you how to turn standard ramen into a date-worthy noodle dish. – Tucker Bowe

Pesto Ramen

Makes 4 servings

Before Danny Bowien was famous for cooking “Americanized Oriental Cuisine” at Mission Chinese Food, he worked for a Ligurian chef in San Francisco. Through some impossible-sounding fable of a story, he ended up competing in an international pesto-making competition and winning, this Korean kid from Oklahoma beating the Italians at their own game. As an accredited pesto master, he is sometimes disposed to make the green sauce during the months when basil is in high stride. This led, for a brief few nights at the cramped little space that was the first iteration of Mission Chinese Food New York, to pesto ramen. It sounds insane, of course, but it is mega delicious, possibly better than pesto on pasta, and easy to boot. Fresh ramen noodles are a must for this dish. We like Sun Noodle, which probably sells fresh ramen somewhere near your ZIP code.

4 cups of basil leaves
1 tablespoon of pine nuts
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup of olive oil
a dash of kosher salt
1 tablespoon of grated parmesan
1 tablespoon of grated pecorino Romano, plus more for garnish
4 portions of fresh ramen noodles

1. Wash the basil, leaving some water clinging to the leaves. Roughly chop the pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil in a blender or food processor. With the motor running, add the basil and a pinch of salt and process until smooth. Add the parmesan and pecorino and pulse to mix.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles until they are relaxed but firmer than al dente, about 2 minutes — they will continue to soften after coming out of the water. Drain, rinse quickly in cold water, and toss in a bowl with the pesto. Top with a sprinkle of pecorino and serve.

The excerpt and recipe are taken out of Lucky Peach Presents: 101 Easy Asian Recipes, published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

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