I recently visited a dear friend in Cham, Switzerland.
It was a dream vacation. Though only there for five days, I had a fantastic time. How could I not? Switzerland is postcard pretty and my friend JY, her husband R and their dog Umbria were the perfect hosts. And the weather was refreshing cool ... ok, cold at times but a welcome reprieve from the typical year-round heat here in Malaysia.
It was the perfect holiday. We roamed during the day and lazed at home in the evenings, after some very good home-cooked meals (accompanied by copious amounts of alcohol), of course. JY and R took turns cooking and I ... well, I scoffed down whatever was put before me, of course.
I've been back almost a week now and I've been craving pasta (we had that quite a bit) since. Particularly pesto pasta which J made to perfection one evening. It was well and good to load up on carbs in Cham (I rationalised that I needed carbs to help me deal with the cold; plus we walked a whole lot). Back home, I usually stay away from too much carbohydrates.
But, that pasta dish kept haunting me (thanks JY!). After fighting off the urge to carbo-load for a couple of days, I gave in tonight. I needed pasta. I needed pesto pasta.
What did I do? I bought a whole bunch of basil (unlike J who grows her own basil, I had to buy mine) and made myself a mother-load of pasta — I have foresight. I know that my craving won't be quelled so easily and so I made enough for a couple more meals.
Great pesto is truly magical. Traditionally, pesto is made with basil, cheese, olive oil and pine nuts. Garlic is almost always used too, with restraint. Time has seen many variations of the original basil pesto — coriander, parsley, sun-dried tomatoes have been used as the base ingredient; walnuts are often used as an economical substitute for pine nuts and Parmesan isn't necessarily the only cheese used in pesto anymore. The ONE ingredient that is never tampered with is the olive oil.
I've made coriander and parsley pesto before — both delicious — but I wanted to do the original tonight. Basil. Pine nuts. Parmesan. Garlic. Olive Oil.
However you choose to make your pesto — blender/mortar and pestle; coarse/fine; garlic, no garlic; etc — you will undoubtedly end up with a winner. You may, however, want to read this article that appeared in the Guardian ... just for reference.
My dinner was so satisfying. And, I have lots of pesto in my fridge for the rest of the week. Haven't figured out what I'll do with it next but till then, here's the how to for this Pesto Pasta!
For the pesto
2 handfuls fresh basil
50g pine nuts, toasted and lightly crushed
50g Parmesan, grated
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil/olive oil
salt, pepper and a just a couple of drops of lemon juice
In your blender/processor, add the basil (you can roughly chop it) and pine nuts and blend in several short bursts till you have a thick paste. Add the cheese and garlic and gradually add in the oil through the feeder tube/hole as you blend. Add the seasoning and lemon juice just before you're ready to remove your pesto (you decide on the consistency)
Cook your pasta as per usual (boil in salted water till al dente), drain and toss with a little olive oil. Mix in the pesto. Garnish with some grated Parmesan.