Wild About Pesto

IMG_20130704_152054[1]Seldom a week passes without my mini magimix being called upon to whizz up a batch of pesto and at this time of year with so many herbs sprouting in the garden, I’m making loads of it and loving the experiments.  My kids are pesto fanatics too – pasta and a dollop of pesto with a few tomatoes and a shaving of cheese is such a quick and easy staple.   They have always been happy with fresh, shop-bought pesto but these days their tastes are much more refined:  ‘Is it homemade, mum?’ they ask.  I always detect an air of disappointment if it’s not. 

Fried courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta & fresh basil pesto

Fried courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta & fresh basil pesto

There seems to be much variation on the topic of ingredient proportions and pesto recipes can vary wildly.  I prefer to keep the cheese element to a minimum and so go with Kate Caldesi’s version of Genovese pesto in her book ‘The Italian Cookery School’ where she suggests 50g basil, 50g pine nuts, 25g parmesan, 125ml extra virgin olive oil and a clove of garlic.  I stick to these general proportions when using other herbs but strong, punchy herbs go further so start with less and see how you go.  My sage and almond pesto recipe is below.

Lamb & mint pesto burgers with halloumi, aubergine & courgette tzatziki

Lamb & mint pesto burgers with halloumi, aubergine & courgette tzatziki

There are two other recipes which I love and often refer to.  The first is the Wild Garlic Pesto recipe on the West Dorset Foodie’s very approachable blog.  The second, which you can find on www.londonbakes.com suggests using sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts which is an interesting variation and keeps the cost down.  Finally, check out www.elizabethminchilliinrome.com whose beautifully illustrated blog has some great pesto recipes.  Just type pesto into the search bar on the site.

So why not have a go?  It’s quick, easy and versatile with so many dishes.  Mint is all over the place at this time of year and a pesto made with this rampaging herb is delightfully fresh and we love to serve it with a summer vegetable risotto (asparagus, peas, broad beans perhaps) or spread on pizza and topped with halloumi cheese and thinly sliced courgettes.

Pasta with mint pesto and summer vegetables

Pasta with mint pesto and summer vegetables

But what about wine matching you ask?  Well, my advice is to stick to a crisp, fresh, white wine in most instances.  Think Vermentino, Aligoté or Sauvignon Blanc.  If you’re serving the pesto with a weighty accompaniment, you could try a slightly heavier white but the acidity is still important to cut through the wonderful olive oil.  A sundried tomato pesto with baked salmon or tuna could cope with a light and refreshing red but make sure you lightly chill the wine for maximum enjoyment.

Buon appetito!

Sage & Almond Pesto

Combine the following ingredients in a food mixer.  I don’t usually add salt as the cheese makes it salty enough for me.

20g fresh sage
15g pecorino, finely grated
25g almonds, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
80ml extra virgin olive oil

We asked our butcher to open up a pork fillet for us and we spread the inside with parma ham and a few dollops of this sage pesto, rolled it up and barbecued it.  Delicious!

Pork fillet stuffed with parma ham & sage and almond pesto

Pork fillet stuffed with parma ham & sage and almond pesto

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