I had been buying pesto from the supermarket for years and always thought it was something super complicated to make, like harissa paste or soy sauce, from sophisticated ingredients you cannot find anywhere. The first time I tried to make it myself, was a few years ago, when I read a recipe in Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat that started like this: “I once worked for a chef who had a marble mortar and pestle the size (and weight) of a small child”. If you have something like that, use it. I prefer the blender.
I tried different recipes, but the one I keep using is from Jeroen Meus, my favourite Belgian chef, who makes the best family meals and uses convenient and simple ingredients that you find everywhere. When you don’t have the right amount of basil, you can also substitute it for parsley, or whatever leaves you might have. I recently saw a post from Food Waste Combat, with a pesto recipe made of radish and carrot leaves. I never knew what to do with these leaves and I felt bad every time I had to throw them away. So now I know what the next pesto variation will be. My friend Ioana, a master of simple food, inspired me with this colourful pasta pesto recipe, with cherry tomatoes and lots of parmesan, in case you’re afraid it might turn out too healthy…
Ingredients (serves 4)
For the green pesto
60 g fresh basil leaves (or other green leaves you have)
60 g pine nuts
1 clove of garlic
80 g Parmesan cheese (broken into smaller pieces)
150 ml olive oil
Juice from ½ lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
250 g dried pasta
20 cherry tomatoes
Extra grated Parmesan cheese
To make the green pesto, add all the ingredients in the blender and mix until you get the desired consistency. I prefer to still taste small pieces of pine nuts and cheese, so I never mix it too long. Also, try to not overmix it, as the basil leaves oxidize pretty fast and you can get a dark coloured pesto that is not so appealing to the eyes.
Bring a big pot of water to a boil, add three palmfuls of salt and a bit of olive oil and add your favourite pasta. Cook it for 8-10 min, until it’s al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander so it’s not watery. Here’s a good article about common mistakes people do with something as simple as pasta cooking.
Slice the cherry tomatoes. Arrange the pasta nicely in the plate, add a good spoon of pesto (two spoons also works) and sprinkle some cherry tomatoes and extra parmesan. This combination is such an umami bomb, that it always reminds me of that scene in Ratatouille, when Rémy explains to his brother how to taste a strawberry together with a piece of cheese, to get an explosion of taste, like fireworks.
The next pesto on the list is one that combines whatever greens and leaves I have in the house, like the mix below. Let me know if you tried any combinations that you particularly liked. Pasta la pesto amici!