I’m not too big a fan of pasta. To be exact, I eat pasta about one or two times a year at most. So I usually make a big deal out of it, fancy fillings and sauces and all that jazz. However, on my grocery shopping trip today the aroma of the potted basil arranged conveniently at the entrance to the store (I hate being marketing’ed…) was so intense, I couldn’t help but think PESTO at the top of my inner lungs.
While pasta is a rarity in my kitchen, I make various pestos from time to time, be it as dipping sauce, for barbecues and parties or simply as a different sort of bread spread or salad topping. Thanks to the basil smoke bomb I decided on making the unadorned classic green basil pesto and turn it into a dressing for a noodle salad like this:
1 Head of Garlic, 1 Leaf and 1 Nut? Really?
♥, Nahdala Darkwind
Start with the Pesto, you will have leftovers. Convenient, no?
The Classic Pesto Genovese:
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
150ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
75g Pine Nuts
Sea Salt, Pepper
1) Toast the pine nuts in a large pan on medium heat, shake the pan to move them around regularely. Keep a close watch on them, they’re devious – for a seemingly endless amount of time nothing happens, then you turn away to sneeze and they use that second to completely burn into cinder.
2) Pick the leaves off the basil sprigs; I’ve read somewhere to enhance the vibrant green color and to take off a possible bitter edge to the herbs you should douse the leaves with boiling water through a sieve to speed-blanch them and then submerge them in ice water right away, but I’ve never done that before myself.
3) Finely grate the cheeses – believe me, the fresher the better. I had to use a packet of “convenience” grated parmesan once – it changed everything from taste to texture in a really bad way.
4) Use a pestle and mortar to pound the garlic, the basil leaves and the nuts into a thick paste. Use a pinch of coarse sea salt to help with the grinding.
5) If your mortar is too small to hold all the ingredients, keep adding them in batches and move the paste to a larger bowl once it’s smooth.
6) Add the cheeses to the paste.
7) Slowly pour in the oil while stirring gently. Depending on the cheeses you may need more or less oil; so keep stirring in oil until you get a creamy, oozy consistency you’d want to eat right away.
In fact – now you’ll need to do exactly that.
8) Have a tase and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper. If it’s too heavy you might want to stir in a couple of drops of lemon juice, but remember you’re not really eating it raw as it is right now.
9) Once you’re satisfied with the balance of flavours, fill the pesto into an airtight container and pour a thin layer of olive oil on top to seal it – basil pesto darkens on contact with oxygen, so keep that layer on to prevent exposure as long as possible.
Now let’s put it to use.
The Pesto Pasta Salad
200g fresh Tagliatelle (fresh pasta as well as pasta with a bigger surface soak up more liquid, hence the tagliatelle instead of spaghetti)
100g cherry tomatoes, halved
50g toasted pine nuts (or garlic roasted almond shaves)
The Pesto Dressing
2 generous tbsp pesto
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
a pinch of freshly cracked pepper
1) Grate the parmesan into a small bowl and set it aside.
2) Mix the pesto, vinegar and oil in a mixing bowl large enough to hold the pasta and tomatoes you’ll be adding later as well.
3) Taste and season the dressing with pepper and, if necessary, more of whichever ingredient you wish to intensify. If you think salt is missing, remember the parmesan will add saltiness later.
4) Add the halved tomatoes to the pesto bowl to marinade.
5) Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente – fresh pasta only takes about 3 minutes, so be ready to serve really soon.
6) Take the pasta out of the water , shake off excess water and move it directly to the bowl. Use tongs to carefully turn the noodles in the dressing to avoid breaking them up. Keep going until the pasta is evenly coated. Let it rest for about 3 mins.
7) Divide pasta and tomatoes on to 2 plates and sprinkle over the parmesan. If there’s dressing left in the bowl, drizzle it over the portions as well
8) Top it off with the pine nuts and a few more parmesan flakes. Enjoy!