First Courses, Pastas, Summer, Vegetarian
In the summer, nothing beats the pungent, aromatic flavours and satisfying texture of a home-made pesto sauce. A delicious, simple picnic dish is pasta salad dressed with fresh pesto sauce with little pieces of good mozzarella and cherry tomatoes.
1 cup good olive oil
2 big bunches of fresh basil
A handful of pine nuts (100 g/3 oz) (or walnuts or almonds if you can’t get pine nuts)
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste (remember the Parmesan is salty and the pasta will be salted!)
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Potatoes and green beans (optional, see below)
Pasta quantities are very subjective, but for a light sauce such as this one, calculate 80- 100 g/3-4 oz as a starter, or 160-180 g /5-6 oz as a main course.
Either combine the ingredients with a mortar and pestle, or leave out the oil and cheese and combine by chopping (mezzaluna or food processor). Put in a small bowl and cover with oil straight away to avoid the basil oxidising and going black.
Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water, salted just before you add the pasta. Cook it al dente (a good minute or two less than the packet instructions, until it is cooked but still firm to the bite). When you drain the pasta, remember to reserve some of the cooking water.
In a warmed bowl (you can warm it with the pasta water), mix the pasta and pesto sauce well, adding a little pasta water if the result is too dry. You can add cheese at the table or in the sauce, as you prefer.
Green beans and potatoes
In Liguria, pesto is often served with green beans and potatoes boiled in the pasta water. Calculate 1 small potato and a handful of beans per person (adjust the pasta quantities accordingly). Both will need around 10-12 minutes cooking time in boiling water. Remember that if you salt the water with just the potatoes in it, they will become too salty and your pasta too bland. For a comforting (almost mushy) potato texture and a not overcooked bean texture, using a pasta shape which requires 10 minutes cooking, try the following:
1) Minute 0: add the potatoes (in small cubes) to the unsalted boiling water
2) Minute 2: add the beans and the pasta and salt the water
3) Minute 12: drain and dress.