Not just for pasta
Until 4 years ago I had never used pesto, which now seems so unbelievable. Quite often, I picked up a jar in a supermarket, putting it back down again, convinced I would not like this weird green concoction in a jar. Often, while pursuing over delicious looking vegetarian recipes in magazines and books I would then see that they contained pesto as an ingredient. So after much visual taunting, I bought a jar of basil pesto, which then say in my cupboard for a month or two. Finally, taking the bull by the horns the lid came off and I added a tiny bit to new roast potatoes. Like a snack in the face, so many wonderful flavours hit me. My love affair with pesto began.
So what is pesto?
Heralding from Genova in Italy, this typically vibrant green sauce contained crushed to form a paste using a pestle and mortar. Usually containing garlic, basil, coarse salt, pine nuts and a hard cheese such as parmesan. This was blended with olive oil to form a sauce, which could be stored for up to a week in an airtight container or frozen. Now so many variations of pesto consist, using different nuts such as walnuts and almond. Using roast tomatoes and a different substitute for basil, like mint, rocket and spinach gives you a wider range of profiles and to tailor it to the dish you are creating.
I now make a few types of pesto so I have a steady supply. I freeze it in ice cube trays and once frozen pop into freezer bags and label.
When you think pesto, you think pasta, to me it is such a delicious sauce and I now incorporate it in many savoury recipes such as
A few spoonfuls on a vegan pizza brings it alive and gives it an extra zing. For a quick alternative pizza, spread slow-roasted tomato pesto onto a naan bread. Top with sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella style cheese and bake at 180-200 C, gas mk 6 for 12 minutes.
Toss whole hasselback potatoes into your favourite pesto then roast them in the oven with some fragrant fat garlic cloves in their skins. Roast until crispy, squeeze the now sweet garlic out of their skins and toss again.
Herby potato wedges
Cut 4 potatoes into chunky wedges and place in a roasting tin. Mix together 1 tbsp of your pesto of choice with 3 tbsp of olive oil. Pour over and coat the wedges. Roast at 220 C, gas mk 7 for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
Cheese and pesto toasties
Spread half of your bread of choice or ciabatta with basil or rocket pesto, top with vegan cheese such as cheddar or mozzarella style. Grill each side for 5 minutes on a medium grill, until the cheese has melted and warmed through.
Make mash for 4 using 500g of King Edward or Maris Piper potatoes, mashed with 50g vegan butter plus 2 tbsp cashew milk. Gently stir through 4 tbsp classic basil vegan pesto and season to taste, then top with a few toasted pine nuts. Simply delicious with a good vegan banger.
Quick pesto pasta
My absolutely favourite quick meal for myself is some gluten-free pasta with 2 cubes of classic basil or kale and walnut pesto stirred through. Season to taste, and sprinkle with some vegan parmesan with toasted pine nuts, If I have time some fried mushrooms. Real comfort food in a bowl.