Monday, 6 May 2013
Pesto has got to be one of my favourite sauces of all time. It's easy, healthy and full of flavour. The list of things you can add this to are endless. You could dress pasta with it, spread it over crostinis, as a base for salad dressing, as the base of a marinade for chicken or fish, simply on toast or anything really. Pesto is usually made with herbs. Basil is a very popular variety. Here I've used arugula instead of herbs. Arugula is most commonly used as a salad leaf but it has a terrific, peppery flavour. It makes a fantastic pesto. Arugula leaves are called "rockets" in the UK. So they would call this 'Rocket Pesto', which sounds very cool and an accurate description of just how awesome this stuff is.
If you want to make your own pesto, you are not restricted to leafy ingredients. Sundried tomato pesto is outstanding. I've also seen garlic and olive pesto. You can make a pesto with just about anything that will taste good ground up with nuts, oil, and fresh Parmigiano Reggiano. For an even better pesto, grind your ingredients with a mortar and pestle. The flavours that come out will be more robust. It takes a bit longer and is more labour intensive but it's well worth it. Here I'm just using a food processor. It's very quick and turns out incredible anyway.
2 packed cups of fresh arugala
1/2 cup of almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled
2/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
1 tsp of salt
1 tbsp of hemp seeds (optional)
Place all of your ingredients except the olive oil and Parmigiano in a food processor. I added hemp seeds to this recipe because I have them, they're extraordinarily good for you and they work in pesto. It's not traditional and is 100% optional. So don't fuss about it, please.
Then, transfer your mixture into a blender because your food processor bit the dust and stopped working. Note, if your food processor does work, skip this step. A food processor is most convenient but a blender can be used. The only downside to the blender is that it will take longer because you will have to push the sides of the mixture down towards the blade between pulses.
Pulse the mixture a few times before blending on high. While it's blending, steadily pour in the olive oil. You want to blend it into a smooth paste. Until it looks something like this:
Transfer the pesto into a bowl and add the freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. I use a lot of this stuff on the blog, if you hadn't noticed. It is oh so imperative that you get the good stuff. Not the pre-grated powder you get at the super market. Get a chunk of the block of Parmigiano from Italy. It's a little more expensive but so worth it. You will know exactly what I mean when you try it.
Once your Parmigiano is mixed in then you are done! You will end up with about a cup of pesto, completely at your disposal. As you can see below, I used it as a pizza sauce with zucchini, red onion, tomatoes, broccolini, spinach, mushrooms, chili and dollops of ricotta. It was sensational!
In another example, here I've used it to dress some fiorelli pasta with some ricotta and diced red chili. I wish I'd made enough for seconds.
If you would like to know how to make a phenomenal pizza dough, check out my recipe here. There are easy step by step directions on how to make it. While you're at it, why not check out a previous pizza stone night we had last November. Might give you a few ideas.
If you have any questions please let me know in the comments below.
All my best to you and yours!