Make pesto. Make lots of pesto. It’s very easy to make and always infinitely better than anything you could buy in a jar.
Because it’s so powerfully flavoured, a little pesto goes a long way. You only need a tablespoon per person, and you can use it with any pasta you like. In Genoa, pesto’s home, the tradition is for trennette, which is like linguine but chunkier. Spaghetti or short, textured shapes like fusilli or ridged penne, even gnocchi – it always works.
Follow the Italian tradition and add butter to the hot pasta – just a teaspoon will do – before tossing with the pesto.
Because pesto is about proportions, this is an instance where cup measures make more sense than weights.
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
⅓ cup pine nuts
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
⅓ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Put the basil, garlic and half the pine nuts into a small food processor and blend until very well chopped.
With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Once all the oil has been incorporated, add the other half of the pine nuts and process briefly until coarsely chopped to give your pesto some texture.
Tip into a bowl, add the Parmesan cheese and stir by hand.
Adjust the consistency with olive oil or Parmesan, as necessary, to produce a thick but pourable consistency.
Store fresh pesto in the fridge under a layer of olive oil, which will protect it, and let it come back to room temperature before using.
If you want to freeze pesto, don’t add the Parmesan when you make it. I freeze it in tiny tubs that hold just a couple of tablespoons and it thaws in under 30 minutes straight from the freezer. Revive it by adding cheese and enough olive oil to bring it to a thick but pourable consistency and dinner is moments away.
While the combination of basil and pine nuts is traditional, you can easily create your own wonderful versions by substituting different leaves or nuts.
Other leafy herbs like parsley and coriander (cilantro), as well as the punchier varieties of basil like Thai basil are delicious, and a good way to deal with a bunch of herbs that may be rapidly approaching its use-by date. Rocket (arugula) can also be transformed into a pesto with a peppery edge.
Instead of pine nuts, try almonds, macadamias, walnuts or pecans.