Pesto(ish) for a rainy day

So after Spring made a very brief appearance, in particular yesterday which gave us a day in which we all breathed a sigh of relief from the awful weather we seem to be having recently, today it is cold, grey, raining and utterly miserable. Burian 2 is on its way, or the beast from the east is making a comeback, as they call it in the UK. It’s the kind of day where the only real option is to just stay at home and stay in our pyjamas, hence the Saturday morning cooking.

Not that there was actually that much cooking involved. Today I made pesto with a handful of parsley that I’ve recently planted on the balcony. Pesto literally means made with a pestello or pestle. It’s one of those things that might sound complicated but is actually ridiculously easy. Once you’ve made it you’ll never want to buy the supermarket stuff again.

In this case though I used a hand-held blender.  I blitzed the handful of parsley that I’d cut up with scissors beforehand with half a large garlic clove, about 50g of ready-peeled almonds and added a good slug of olive oil, enough to coat the pasta smoothly rather than clog it up. I then mixed in a couple of tablespoonfuls of finely grated pecorino romano or, to be more accurate, I put the cheese in a mini blitzer that does this in seconds.

If you do blitz it, resist the temptation to do it too finely. I personally prefer it when it’s got more texture to it. And do taste as you go along. If you fancy a bit more cheese, add it. If you want to mix in a few more ground almonds at the end, do. And if you don’t happen to have any pecorino romano sitting in your fridge, use parmesan or any other hard cheese. My neighbour is an amazing cook who lives to the rule that she would never go to the shop just for one ingredient, so don’t feel you have to either. She just substitutes with anything suitable she has in her fridge, and experiments.

Besides, this isn’t the real pesto. You have to go to Liguria for that. Ligurian pesto is made with basil that’s grown on the sunny shores there, and if you were to suggest to anyone who lives there that this were called pesto they would object, and rightly so. Ligurian pesto is food of the gods. I know this every time I’ve eaten it there. I once ate it at a friend’s vineyard. Her grandmother had made it, and I was presented with a dish of gnocchi swimming in the most heavenly pesto I have ever tasted. No, this is not pesto. This is pesto(ish). So please do not consider calling it pesto. A final word about salt. I personally don’t add salt as I think the pecorino has enough flavour, but this is up to you.

Mix your pesto in with some rigatoni you’ve cooked in the meantime. Keep about a third of a cup of the cooking water as you’ll need this to help it bind. Add the water very gradually and mix as you go along, as the last thing you want is watery pasta. You could also use any long pasta such as spaghetti or linguine but I’d run out so it was rigatoni instead. Sprinkle with ground almonds and more grated pecorino romano, a generous twist of ground black pepper, and lunch is served.

Dream of sunshine and Ligurian villages where you can eat the real thing.

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