These days in my quarantine kitchen, yes that’s a new word coined in the times of the Covid-19 pandemic , pasta is a priced possession. One of many reasons, but the ones that stand out is its long shelf life and the ease of cooking something real quick. Pasta is definitely the choice for a batch cook or for that rustle-me-up-a-quick-lunch on a weekday. But I have to say that I have been spoiled for picking up store-bought pestos – sun-dried pesto, Calabrese pesto, and my absolute favourite the original pesto. That green nutty, cheesy goodness that makes even the most unexciting shaped pasta , i.e. spaghetti ( please spaghetti loving police spare me, I do love spaghetti but I’m very easily impressed with the more unusual shaped pastas ) taste like an almost Michelin dish. Ok, I might have exaggerated a little there but a Pesto Pasta is definitely my favourite pick-me-up.
This homemade pesto is your answer to your store-bought version without the nasties and preservatives. I tend to make this fresh and use the same day. But you could also store this in an air-tight jar in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Pesto acts as a really good salad dressing or dip along with some roasted veggies.
You don’t need lots ingredients to make this pesto, but feel free to get a bit creative. It’s your pesto and you can tweak it to suit your taste. I’ve adapted the traditional Pesto recipe and I tend to use the bare essentials and sometimes that changes too based on what I have but it is mostly, basil, garlic, half and half grated Parmesan and Pecorino cheese, pepper, red chilli flakes and pine nuts. But the most important ingredient to me is the olive oil. I use extra virgin olive oil always, and using a good quality olive oil can make the biggest difference to the end product.
Now for the substitutes, and I know these days its more important to work with the ingredients you have, rather than head to the store to just pick up one ingredient. Stay home and stay safe. But that doesn’t mean you can’t cook delicious food.
No pine nuts? Use walnuts, pistachios or even peanuts without the skin. Remember to dry roast the nuts prior to using.
No Pecorino or Parmesan, well I’ve used Gouda and Cheddar. I’ve also once made the pesto without any cheese and just topped my pasta with grated cheddar cheese. Some cheese is better than none is my theory and it worked well for me. Experiment and let me know what works for you.
No basil? Hmmm.. This is a new one to me, but you could replace basil with parsley, a combination of kale and spring onions? I’m definitely going to try and make another version of the pesto and share it on the blog. But in the mean time, with this recipe I promise I make your pasta disappear, hey p’r’esto!