Pesto is one of those things that I always like to have in the cupboard. It's my go-to pasta sauce when I'm feeling oh so lazy that I can't even be bothered to ring for a take away. Cook some pasta, stir in some pesto, and boom, you've got yourself a meal. Perhaps not particularly balanced, but a meal nonetheless.
Really though, pesto deserves more than that. It's been around for hundreds of years, a staple Italian sauce. When I'm feeling somewhat less lazy, I like to put a bit more effort in, cooking up some vegetables to go with it (mushrooms work surprisingly well with pesto), or even making my own pesto.
This isn't really a recipe, it's just me hoping to inspire some of you to go and make some pesto! It's so much better than the shop-bought version, since you can tailor it to suit your tastes. Personally, I like to add an extra clove of garlic and a little less oil than most recipes recommend - I don't like greasy pasta.
There are several important components to a good pesto - fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese and olive oil. I never measure anything out too carefully, since it's pretty hard to go wrong with pesto - just blitz it all up together and see what happens. If it's looking too thick, add a bit more oil. If it's too runny, add some more cheese or pine nuts. Just play around until you find a combination you like.
I know I've already said this, but I can't stress it enough - this is so much better than the stuff you buy in a jar. The flavour of the garlic really comes through, and it doesn't leave a puddle of greasy oil on your plate. It just tastes light and fresh.
I used my most recent batch of pesto on some tortellini, with some roasted asparagus (is anyone else not wanting asparagus season to end?).
The perfect spring dish.
Tortellini with homemade pesto and roasted asparagus
1 packet filled tortellini (I used garlic and herb flavour)
2 servings homemade pesto
20g cheddar cheese, grated, to serve
For the pesto:
30g pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
Large handful fresh basil
40g vegetarian parmesan cheese
Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus, and lay in a baking tray, drizzled with a little oil. Roast for 10-15 minutes at 190°C (Gas Mark 5 / 375°F), until tender.
In a food processor, blitz the pine nuts, garlic, basil and cheese together to form a coarse paste. While running, slowly add the oil in a steady stream until it reaches your desired consistency.
Boil the tortellini according to the packet's instructions (usually only a few minutes). Stir in the homemade pesto, and serve with the roasted asparagus and a small amount of grated cheddar.