Pesto is the besto

Basil Pesto

 

The title of this post is inspired by my favourite ‘Friends’ character, Phoebe. When flirting with Monica’s sous chef in a rhyming fashion (because… It’s Phoebe) she asks if his pesto is the besto – and now whenever I think of the word pesto, I rhyme it with besto. Moving on…

For me, few things compete with a freshly-made pesto and its one of the easiest ways to boost flavour. I love how you can change it up with different herbs, nuts, oils – and serving suggestions are limitless. So it was a no-brainier for me to do a post on pesto!

What to cook with pesto

My personal favourites include tossing through fresh home-made pasta for a speedy dinner or spread through a delicious plaited bread.

Pesto-Pasta

 

Additional uses for pesto:

  • Serve with antipasti platters
  • Swirl through your favourite soup
  • Elevate your potato-bake by adding a generous spoonful on top
  • Mix with butter and refrigerate for your own go-to pesto butter

While basil pesto is one of the more widely known varieties, the options are endless! Play with flavours and don’t be scared to experiment with tastes that suit your palette.

Here is a really handy formula from one of my favourite cookbooks – ‘A Modern Way To Eat’ by Anna Jones.

  1. Start with a nut base, about 50g (almonds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, pine nuts, etc)
  2. Add a herb or two, a large bunch (mint, basil, parsley, dill, coriander, rocket)
  3. Add some acid kick, about 2 tablespoons (lime, balsamic, orange, lemon)
  4. Add some oil, about 4 tablespoons (olive oil, walnut oil, avocodo, coconut milk)
  5. Add an accent flavour/flavour (Parmesan, garlic, honey, pecorino)

Below I share two recipes that have become regulars in our home.


Basil Pesto

A classic, because it doesn’t get better than this.

Ingredients:

  • 50g pine nuts
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 40g basil
  • 50g parmesan
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 80ml olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Method:

Lightly toast the pine nuts on a dry pan until golden brown.

If using a food processor, place pine nuts, garlic, basil, parmesan and lemon zest into a food processor and whiz until coarse. Slowly pour the olive oil while the food processor is running to bring the pesto together.

If using a pestle and mortar, put the garlic and salt and crush to a soft paste. Add in the basil, crush, followed by the toasted pine nuts. Add the Parmesan, lemon zest and continue pounding until a paste texture has formed. Gradually add the olive oil until well mixed.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Note: Pine nuts can be expensive these days, a really good alternative is flaked almonds. Toast as above, and add in to the food processor.

Download the PDF for the Basil Pesto recipe.


Roast tomato & red pepper pesto

This is another go-to pesto recipe I love to use. This is from the beautiful book: Cafe Food at Home by Evan Faul.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large red peppers, cored seeded and cut into quarters
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 15ml olive oil for roasting
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 60g parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 35g pine nuts
  • 25g cashew nuts
  • 5ml balsamic vinegar
  • 20g basil leaves (optional)
  • 100ml good quality olive oil for blending
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 lemon

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C.

Arrange the peppers and tomatoes skin sides down on a roasting tray. Drizzle with oil and roast for 15 minutes.

Place the garlic, cheese, pine nuts, cashew nuts, and vinegar in a food processor and blend together gently.

Add the roasted peppers, tomatoes and basil (if using) and blend at low speeds.

With the processor running, slowly add 100 ml oil in a steady stream (depending on the thickness you require, adjust the amount of olive oil). Season to taste and finish off with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Place in an airtight container or in a sterilized glass jar in the fridge – it should keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge.

Note: This pesto is superb blended with some mayonnaise and mixed with leftover roast chicken on ciabatta! Also delicious with cream and gnocchi (pictured below).

Roasted Tomato Pesto Gnocchi


 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post – let me know what your favourite pestos are and what you like to cook!

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