Pesto is the Best-o
Wow! Today was the most gloriously sunny Winter day, the kind of day that makes you forget that you spend the nights rugged up in fifteen layers plus a hot water bottle and three blankets just to go to sleep. I took the rare chance to dust off my little red bike and rode across town to my parents’ place, where mum had a pot of homemade fish & barley soup bubbling on the stove for lunch. I slurped down a bowl with a hunk of crusty bread and rode back home in the sun. Absolute bliss.
It was the perfect day to celebrate flavours of Summer as today I time travelled back to Florence in my kitchen. On a warm night we walked across the River Arno and back through some winding streets to a small square, where a Vespa stood outside of a gelati shop. Unfortunately, protocol and a restaurant reservation meant we couldn’t go straight to dessert, but what followed was a delicious meal with antipasti, perfectly formed salads with hunks of salty cheese on top (this appeased the Greek in me very much) and a beautifully fresh and simple pesto rigatoni.
In its essence, that’s what pesto is. Simple. It’s not showy or over the top, despite its beautiful emerald hue. Basil is just great friends with a key handful of ingredients and like all good friends, if you get them together and mix things up – magic happens.
This is by far one of the easiest recipes to have in your repertoire. Why buy a jar off the shelf that has been sitting there for months on end? Put the jar back on the shelf, make a couple of stops in the other aisles and you will have a delicious and versatile sauce-come-dip-come-toast topper that’s fresh as fresh can be (plus you then get ultimate bragging rights).
Use with pasta, on toast, in sandwiches, as part of a salad dressing, on roast potatoes, on a antipasti platter – the list is endless! This will keep in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to a week.
Best-o Pesto (serves 6)
60g pine nuts
50g basil leaves (or two standard bunches)
one handful mint leaves
one clove garlic, crushed
60g parmesan cheese, grated
half a cup extra virgin olive oil
one anchovy fillet
a squeeze of lemon
In a dry pan, toast your pine nuts over a medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally for 8 – 10 minutes until nice and golden. Set aside to cool.
Pick basil and mint leaves off the stems – avoid washing if possible, but if necessary, run under some water and leave to dry on a tea towel.
Crush garlic and mix with a pinch of sea salt.
For chunkier pesto
Combine everything except the pine nuts in a food processor or blender, and puree until you have a nice smooth paste. Add in pine nuts and pulse so still chunky.
For smoother pesto
Combine all ingredients, including pine nuts, in a food processor or blender and puree to desired consistency.
If you don’t have electricity or are experiencing a blackout
Super simple to do in a mortar and pestle – just use some elbow grease!
Enjoy for breakfast (try pesto soldiers with soft-boiled eggs), lunch (try chicken and pesto sandwiches) or dinner (try pesto coated fish, or tossing with boiled potatoes).