Pesto is one of those things that I always like to have in the cupboard. It’s my go-to pasta sauce when I’m feeling oh so lazy that I can’t even be bothered to ring for a take away. Cook some pasta, stir in some pesto, and boom, you’ve got yourself a meal. Perhaps not particularly balanced, but a meal nonetheless.
Really though, pesto deserves more than that. It’s been around for hundreds of years, a staple Italian sauce. When I’m feeling somewhat less lazy, I like to put a bit more effort in, cooking up some vegetables to go with it (mushrooms work surprisingly well with pesto), or even making my own pesto.
This isn’t really a recipe, it’s just me hoping to inspire some of you to go and make some pesto! It’s so much better than the shop-bought version, since you can tailor it to suit your tastes. Personally, I like to add an extra clove of garlic and a little less oil than most recipes recommend – I don’t like greasy pasta.
There are several important components to a good pesto – fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese and olive oil. I never measure anything out too carefully, since it’s pretty hard to go wrong with pesto – just blitz it all up together and see what happens. If it’s looking too thick, add a bit more oil. If it’s too runny, add some more cheese or pine nuts. Just play around until you find a combination you like.
I know I’ve already said this, but I can’t stress it enough – this is so much better than the stuff you buy in a jar. The flavour of the garlic really comes through, and it doesn’t leave a puddle of greasy oil on your plate. It just tastes light and fresh.
I used my most recent batch of pesto on some tortellini, with some roasted asparagus (is anyone else not wanting asparagus season to end?).
The perfect spring dish.
1 packet filled tortellini (I used garlic and herb flavour)
2 servings homemade pesto
20g cheddar cheese, grated, to serve
For the pesto:
30g pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
Large handful fresh basil
40g vegetarian parmesan cheese
Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus, and lay in a baking tray, drizzled with a little oil. Roast for 10-15 minutes at 190°C (Gas Mark 5 / 375°F), until tender.
In a food processor, blitz the pine nuts, garlic, basil and cheese together to form a coarse paste. While running, slowly add the oil in a steady stream until it reaches your desired consistency.
Boil the tortellini according to the packet’s instructions (usually only a few minutes). Stir in the homemade pesto, and serve with the roasted asparagus and a small amount of grated cheddar.