How often do you buy a bunch of basil, use a dozen leaves or so in a sauce or salad then wonder what to do with the rest? The answer’s easy, pesto, the famous bright green sauce of Liguria. Pesto means ‘to pound’ as this sauce is traditionally made using a mortar and pestle, but I find a blender works well as long as you blend it as briefly as possible – too long and the heat generated changes the flavour. Pesto should never be heated, just tossed through freshly cooked pasta off the heat. Whip up a batch of pesto to preserve the flavour of summer for the cooler months. It keeps in an airtight container in the fridge covered with a layer of oil or with a piece of plastic film pressed onto the surface to stop it oxidising, and it’s great stirred into soups or drizzled over tomatoes for a simple salad. I like the herbal notes of sauvignon blanc with pesto, especially ones from the Adelaide Hills like d’Arenberg’s The Broken Fishplate, which I enjoyed with this pasta recently. Here’s all you need to know about cooking pasta perfectly (scroll down to Q&A).
Serves 4 as an entrée
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus extra for serving
- ⅓ cup freshly grated young pecorino
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon salt flakes
- 2 cups basil leaves*
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 250g dried egg tagliatelle
* I find 2 cups of leaves is the average yield from a bunch of basil.
- Process pine nuts, Parmigiano, pecorino, garlic and salt in a blender or food processor.
- Add basil and oil and pulse briefly, just until the oil is emulsified; it shouldn’t be completely smooth.
- Cover with a piece of plastic film pressed onto the surface and set aside, or refrigerate if making it ahead of time.
- Cook pasta according to packet directions then drain, reserving ½ cup of the cooking water.
- Return pasta to the hot saucepan, add half the pesto and a tablespoon or 2 of the cooking water, tossing well to make it creamy.
- Serve into flat bowls and top with extra parmesan.