You simply have to keep a jar of beautiful “lumo” green pesto in your fridge – especially in summer. No self-respecting Caprese salad would be seen dead without a petticoat of pesto. Two table spoons of pesto in your salad dressing can turn it from drab to Fab – a simple plate of pasta is a simple plate of pasta, but add some pesto and it’s more fabulous than Elton John’s wardrobe.
Both Max and Daniele have a keen interest in pesto. Max played rugby in Recco, Genoa for two years. Pesto is the first born child of Genoa – Pesto alla Genovese …. And they believe that they are the ONLY Italians who can produce this unctuous paste. I am surprised that they haven’t gone the “port” route and registered an official pesto name like the Spaniards did.
You can make a pesto from rocket, parsley or even coriander if you like – change your pine nuts to either walnuts or cashews – change the parmesan to blue cheese and you have something different. I can hear the puritans screaming – but is it pesto??? No it’s not – but it sure tastes great and has so many uses in your kitchen.
This is a great Saturday Lunch Dish – a nice bowl of pasta with a fab salad – one or two ice cold glasses of wine and a float around the swimming pool on a comfy lilo – and you should be feeling ready for a great night out on Saturday evening. (Jan starts making deals with the weather gods in her head …..)
Pesto – The Traditional Sort!
1 cup of toasted pine nuts
2 – 3 cups of Good Extra Virgin Olive Oil – crack out your best bottle here – good olive oil was MADE precisely for this moment – dim the lights, cue the music and pour …..
6 – 8 cloves of roughly chopped garlic
2 lemons – squeeze out the juice
1tsp lemon zest – NO PITH OR YOUR PESTO TURNS INTO SHREKS SOUR BITS
3 tsp flaked sea salt
1 Tbsp. ground black pepper
1 – 2 tsp of brown sugar
3/4 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese
6 cups of roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
Into a liquidiser add the toasted pine nuts, garlic, juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper, sugar and parmesan cheese with about 4 Tabs of olive oil – and blend until this is nice and smooth. If you don’t do this – and you bung in everything at once – unless you are using industrial strength equipment – you will have a pesto that’s full of bits –
Once this mixture is nice and smooth – add the chopped basil a handful
at a time with ¼ cup of olive oil at a time – this way you will get a nice smooth pesto.
When all of the basil is in – blend for at least 4 – 5 minutes
now open the top of the blender and taste – add some salt or pepper or lemon or garlic if needed – you adjust this to your liking now and remember that the flavour improves with time – so once you have adjusted your flavour leave it to stand for an hour or two and taste again.
Now, every single person on the planet has a different palate – you MUST taste taste and taste and keep on tasting – once you have all the ingredients in your liquidiser stop it and taste and adjust – Daniele like loads of lemon in his pesto whereas Max likes loads of parmesan – find your happy medium and go with it.
Like a fine wine – pesto developes in the dark – it gets better with age and if you keep it in an airtight container or bottle (sterilise the bottle first) – it will keep for at least a month in your fridge and each day it will get better and better.
What a beautiful gift this would make!
Next week I am re-purposing some bottles and filling them with Summer Salad Dressings that will knock your Christmas stockings off.
Spaghetti with Chicken, Cream and Pesto
Now that you have a nice big jar of the good stuff this pasta dish is quick and easy and makes for a fab Saturday lunch.
4 De-boned chicken breasts cut into nice bite sized chunks
1 onion chopped finely
4 cloves of garlic chopped finely
1 chicken stock cube
Ground black pepper
500ml of fresh cream
½ cup of Basil Pesto
1 glass of dry white wine or Marsala (a sweet Italian wine) if you prefer
½ cup of flour seasoned with paprika – salt and pepper
Place the seasoned flour into a plastic bag – and put the chicken in and give it a good shake to lightly coat the chicken chunks.
In a large frying pan – add a little olive oil and lightly brown the chicken chunks – do this in at least two batches so as not to overcrowd the pan and cause it to release all its juices and stew.
Remove the chicken and set aside in a covered dish.
In the same pan – lightly brown your onion and garlic.
Add back the chicken and add either your wine or Marsala and cook until all of the alcohol has been cooked out.
If you don’t drink alcohol – use about a cup of chicken stock instead of the wine or Marsala.
Now add in your beautiful pesto – cream – chicken stock cube and lots of ground black pepper and cook on a medium heat until the sauce has thickened. If your sauce gets too thick you can thin it with a little milk.
Make a nice pot of spaghetti – or linguine or taglietelle.
1 x 250g packet of Italian pasta serves 4 generous portions.
When it’s tender –BUT NO MUSH – drain the pasta and add a good knob of butter and enough of the sauce To coat the pasta.
Serve individual portions topped with some Creamy Pesto Drenched Chicken, a touch of your beautiful home made pesto and a good grinding of black pepper to finish it off.
Don’t forget some nice hot ciabatta or rolls.
……. And some vino!
Have a wonderful weekend.