You might wonder why I’m posting a recipe for pesto. Pesto is something that appears on menus and food packaging around the world. Over-used and under-appreciated, there’s most likely a sweaty jar of mass produced pesto lurking in most people’s deepest cupboard space (am I right?). As a student it certainly formed an essential part of our storecupboard staple of pasta, pesto and frozen peas (the 3 P’s), possibly washed down with a pint (make that 4 . . . P’s, not pints that is). The ‘middle class ketchup’ phenomenon . . .
So why a recipe? Because this much maligned sauce doesn’t deserve these bogus impersonators; mean little jars of processed cashews, sunflower oil, preservatives and stabilisers. Pesto should be eaten fresh. It should sing with the rich green notes of freshly torn basil, toasted nuts and salty cheese. Yes, the ingredients can be expensive, but, as with good quality meat and other little luxuries in life, I’d suggest quality over quantity. Instead of plonking pesto onto every baguette, salad, sandwich and snack in sight, savour it, allowing the flavours to shine through.
This recipe is so simple, it’s hardly a recipe at all. Almost as quick and easy as opening a jar of pesto, but infinitely nicer, once you’ve tried it, I’m pretty positive you won’t look back. My recipe mixes rocket and basil for a really light, fresh flavour, and I’ve included few ingredient variations below for the budget conscious or more adventurous amongst you. If you have any other favourite or interesting pesto recipes, I’d love you to share them below.
Rocket & Basil Pesto (makes 1 jar)
2 tbsp pine nuts
Pinch of salt
1/2 clove garlic, crushed
100g freshly picked basil leaves
50g Parmesan, grated
300ml extra virgin olive oil
Dry fry the pine nuts in pan until lightly toasted and golden. Pound in a pestle and mortar with salt and crushed garlic. Add the rocket and basil leaves, continuing to mash until it becomes a thick green paste (you could do this in a food processor, althoug purists would argue against this, preferring the subtler flavours of the bruised ingredients). Add the grated cheese and most of the olive oil until fully blended, reserving a little oil for the top. Transfer to a jar, cover with remaining oil and keep in the fridge for up to one week.
Serve simply with al dente linguine, Ligurian style with trofie pasta, potatoes and green beans, as I’ve done above with ravioli or spoon over chicken or white fish. Delicious.
Some tasty pesto variations:
Basil & pine nut – the classic
Coriander & cashew – omit the cheese and try a little chilli for more of an Eastern feel
Watercress & walnut – earthy and rich, perfect in winter