If you’re ready to make a simple sauce with buckets of flavour, get your food processor out to create this recipe for pesto.
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If you’re ready to make a simple sauce with buckets of flavour, get your food processor out to create this recipe for pesto. What is pesto? Thanks to its origins – the Italian city of Genoa – it is officially called pesto alla genovese, and it only has five primary ingredients: fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan and olive oil. Here, we’ve also added some rocket for its peppery flavour.
If you’ve been enjoying the jarred version bought in the supermarket, prepare your taste buds because this basil pesto recipe will be a revelation! This thick, bright green sauce with its salty overtones is a versatile dish, too. Most commonly used to coat pasta, this easy pesto recipe can be utilised in lots of different - and delicious - ways.
To create this recipe for basil pesto, you need very little. Its name comes from the Italian word pestâ, which means to pound or to crush. Yes, there was a time when a mortar and pestle would have been used to grind together all the pesto ingredients, but here we’ve taken the easy option and utilised a food processor.
What you need to create the tastiest sauce is the freshest basil. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a full summer crop of this fast-growing herb – pick it straight from the garden and give it a rinse before you get started. Don’t have a garden? You can even get a big haul from a pot kept in a sunny position.Once you’ve got your herbs sorted, most of the ingredients are blitzed in a food processor then, with the motor still running, slowly pour in the olive oil. There’s nothing to it.
Our pesto sauce recipe makes a cup, which is more than enough to coat pasta for a family of four. If you have a lot of fresh basil in the garden, though, it’s easy to make a much larger batch. There’s only one problem… Basil pesto can start to brown once it’s been exposed to air. To combat this, simply blanch your basil – drop it in boiling water for 5–10 seconds then pop it into iced water to stop the cooking process – then squeeze it dry. At that point, simply follow the instructions. Your pesto should retain its green colour in the fridge.
Want to impress your friends and neighbours? If you’ve got some empty jars, sterilise them. To do this, give the jars and lids a wash in hot soapy water or put them through the dishwasher. Place the jars upright on a baking tray then put them into a 110ºC oven for about 15 minutes or until they’re completely dry. To sterilise the lids, boil them in water for 5 minutes then air-dry on a cooling rack. Now make a big batch of pesto, divide it between the jars then top them up with a little more olive oil, put the lids on tight and you’ve got homemade presents. You can even add your own label and a bow.
Of course, pasta and basil pesto go perfectly together. It’s best served with longer shapes – corkscrew-shaped fusilli is perfect, but almost anything goes. Also good is spinach and ricotta ravioli or agnolotti. Just stir the pesto through the hot, drained pasta and dish it into bowls. Add some extra parmesan and cracked black pepper and dinner is ready to be served. Another great addition is some crisp pancetta and roasted cherry tomatoes.
Need some more ideas on how to use pesto? It’s great drizzled onto roasted veggies or used as a sauce with grilled steaks, chicken and pork. You can treat it as a dip or spread it over the base of a pizza instead of using a tomato-based sauce. Swirl it through a quiche before cooking or pop a dollop into soup. Some people even like it on toast with a couple of slices of tomato.
There’s no doubt about it, most families love pasta. If they’ve got the taste for it after tucking into this pesto version, try some other easy pasta dishes like one-pan bolognaise and healthy mac and cheese (hidden veggies for the win!). Loving the flavour of your homemade sauce? Try another easy favourite: roasted garlic and basil aioli. It’s great for sandwiches, on roast potatoes or for dipping hot chips.