ingredients• ½ a clove of garlic, chopped
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 3 good handfuls of fresh basil, leaves picked and chopped
• a handful of pine nuts, very lightly toasted
• a good handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• extra virgin olive oil
• a small squeeze of lemon juice
First I’m going to show you an easy recipe for making pesto and then I’ll give you some ideas on how best to use it, instead of just having it with pasta all the time. When it comes to making pesto, you can invest in a good processor if you like, but you can also make it using a pestle and mortar. If you have a blunt blade from your processor then don’t chuck it, but keep it specially for making pesto or marinades where you need to bruise out the flavour, instead of chopping. You may think it’s nice to toast the pine nuts until they’re coloured, to give them a nutty taste, but the really good pestos I’ve tasted in Italy just have them very lightly toasted, to give a creaminess rather than a nuttiness. Pesto is normally made with green basil, but purple basil looks good if you can get hold of some. Another way, slightly more American, uses rocket instead of basil – it’s fragrant and interesting with roasted meats, but I prefer this classic pesto recipe.
Pound the garlic with a little pinch of salt and the basil leaves in a pestle and mortar, or pulse in a food processor. Add a bit more garlic if you like, but I usually stick to ½ a clove. Add the pine nuts to the mixture and pound again. Turn out into a bowl and add half the Parmesan. Stir gently and add olive oil – you need just enough to bind the sauce and get it to an oozy consistency.
Season to taste, then 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. You may like to add a squeeze of lemon juice at the end to give it a little twang, but it’s not essential. Try it with and without and see which you prefer.