If there’s one thing that I always have in my fridge, it’s pesto. Keeping pesto ever-handy is probably a trait passed on from my mum: growing up in my household there was always a supply of tasty things to knock up a yummy sandwich, pasta, or noodle dish. From a young age I was taught to be somewhat self sufficient in the kitchen. I remember my grandma teaching me how to make Chinese dumplings and wok-fried vegetables around the age of 6 or 7, and my mum educating me on how to make a quick bowl of noodles when I would come home from school in a ravenous state. Clearly it was instilled into me from a young age that food is a super important aspect of life, and I have believed in this ever since.
Because I have been making pesto for such a long time, I can’t remember ever using measurements. This recipe is a true example of ‘tasting as you go’. I’m sure everybody’s will taste a little different, but these small differences will only reflect your personal preferences in the balance of flavours. With this set of instructions, I hope you will be equipped with an understanding of how to construct something using your own judgement. I like to cook this way, and with practice I’m certain that everybody can develop the valuable skill of tasting and tweaking as you go.
In the picture above I tossed my pesto through ribbons of sauteed zucchini, dolloped some yoghurt on top and served it with some lemon and paprika as a super quick lunch.
You will need:
a bunch of fresh basil (or experiment using other leafy herbs like parsley which is reallllly good for you)
parmesan cheese (i usually use Grana Padano but other strong hard cheeses like pecorino, or a hard goats’ would also be delicious)
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil (other virgin oils you could use are avocado, macadamia, cold pressed sesame, grape seed, the list goes on…)
pine nuts (or cashews, almonds, peanuts if you want to go nuts!)
a few cloves of raw garlic, skins removed
First of all, clear a workspace and gather all of your ingredients. Prepare a clean blender, mortar and pestle, or food processor (here I am using a hand blender).
Pick the basil leaves off their stringy and astringent stalks (don’t be too precious about this part). Wash and dry well using a salad spinner or tea towel.
Add your basil into blending mechanism of choice. Top with garlic, a handful of nuts, a handful of roughly diced cheese, a pinch of salt, and a more generous pinch of pepper. Drizzle generously with oil until everything is glistening wet. This is where the tasting and tweaking starts: blend all of the ingredients until they are juuust combined. If it is not blending well, add a splash of oil. Now taste. Is it salty enough? if not add a little more salt or cheese. Is it as creamy as you would like it? if not add some more nuts. Does it need the help of some sweetness? if it does, add a pinch of raw sugar.
Blend a little more until everything is combined, but be careful not to over blend otherwise you will end up with a paste that has no texture to it. Pour into a sterilised jar (I just pour boiling water into a cleaned jar and its lid), and top with more oil so that the pesto does not come into contact with air. Keep in the fridge and every time you use some, top with more oil before returning it to the fridge.