Sunday, April 18, 2010

Basil pesto with bruschetta, about as easy as it gets.

Summer is only around the corner and the nice weather is making me crave fresh simple food again, salads and the like, or this summer favourite of mine, pasta with fresh pesto.
Pesto is very simple to make fresh basil, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan. I don't use a recipe, but if you need one go by the below.

Basil Pesto for 4
A large handful of fresh basil leaves.
150g parmesan
100g pine nuts
2-3 Tbsp Good olive oil
Salt and pepper

There are a few ways to do pesto, I believe the authentic way is to hand chop it with a knife on a wooden board to make for different sizes of pieces and an inconsistency that Italian Grandmas consider essential, I've never done it this way, but I might try some day.
I generally use my mortar and pestle to mash the basil leaves up with some sea salt, then add the nuts then the parmesan grated, mash it all up together nicely then add a bit of oil just to make it a little more fluid and stop it clumping up. You can use a food processor at this point, but the results with a mortar and pestle are worth it.
Some people would mash in a clove of garlic too, I don't like it that way myself and prefer not to, it also doesn't keep as well with garlic in, I find.

This is great with most types of pasta but especially good with spaghetti or linguine. When you drain your pasta, keep back enough pasta water to make a bit of a sauce when you add the pasta and pesto back to the pot to mix, the water tends to season and also add a bit of needed liquid to the mix and helps the sauce coat everything.

I hate garlic bread, the stuff from the supermarkets that is badly made with soggy bread which is disgusting and tastes of lazy garlic. I love bruschetta, which is where garlic bread comes from. It's also really easy to make.
Take some of the par-baked demi-baguettes that you can get in most supermarket chains these days, or use a bread of your choice, white and crusty tends to be best, and bake as per instructions. Once baked and preferably cooled, slice it in half lengthways, take either side and grill them as if you were making toast.
Once toasted take a clove of garlic and using the crispy toast side, rub the garlic on the toast as if it was a grater. Once you've got enough garlic on, then put the bread down and drizzle some good olive oil over it and then season with sea salt and pepper.
You can do various things with this, but as is it's very nice, no need to mess with simple and good.

A quick word about salt, it's something I didn't take seriously up until recently when I discovered Maldon sea salt, now I hardly use anything else, the flavour is so soft and amazing. "But it's just salt right?", I hear you ask, I'd have said so too, give it a try.

One other quick tip, use quality pasta, I've recently started to buy DiCecco and man that stuff rocks, another one that's not quite as good is Barilla. Quality pasta is necessary when it's this simple.