1/2 clove of garlic, finely diced
3 large handfuls of basil
1 handful of lightly toasted pine nuts
1 handful of parmesan, freshly grated
extra virgin olive oil
Pound the garlic with a pinch of salt and the basil leaves in a pestle and mortar.
Add the pine nuts and pound again.
Next, add half the parmesan. Stir gently and add olive oil – just enough to bind the sauce and get it to an oozy consistency.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add most of the remaining cheese. Pour in some more oil and taste again.
Keep adding a bit more cheese or oil until you are happy with the taste and consistency.
Finally, add a squeeze of lemon juice and you’re done.
Pesto is a dish that I had never heard of until a friend served up a bowl of green tagliateli to me back in my student days. Up until then my knowledge of Italian food was limited to Pizza, Spagetti Bolognese and lasagne. So a green pasta dish raised an eyebrow and the inevitable “what is this?”
After a brief explanation of what it was made from and assurances that it wasn’t going to kill me, I took my first tentative taste and was pleasantly surprised by the flavours. From then on a jar of store bought pesto and dried pasta could nearly always be found in the kitchen, as it was a virtually effortless meal i.e. boil and drain the pasta, stir in a few spoons of pesto, eat.
My pesto recipe is very much off the cuff, there is very little in the way of exact measures and the final product is completely dependent on tasting as I make it, adding a little parmesan or oil and tasting again until I am happy with both the taste and consistency.
Also this is fun to make, you get to bash stuff up in a pestle and mortar and the sense of satisfaction that you get from tasting and blending the flavour until it’s exactly what you want, is well worth the effort.
Pesto is a great all-rounder, just stir some into some hot fresh pasta and you’ve got lunch or dinner, spread some on a savoury sandwich, a few splashes across a pizza… the list goes on and on.
It’s also worth noting that this recipe will keep for a week or more once stored in an airtight container in your fridge, which means you can make your pesto at the weekend and have it any night of the week.