made with Greek style basil & toasted hazelnuts
This is so good. It’s almost too good to share. Besides being addictive. I should be selling the stuff it’s that good! Pesto is something I’ve only ever had home-made once, and that was made by someone else. Often a jar of shop-bought would languor in my fridge invariably growing mould, that’s how much I used to like pesto. Until now. I’m hooked with this stuff. And can’t believe I’ve never bothered to make it before. Well, the only reason I have is due to buying a large pot of Greek style basil that I thought might be Minette as I used to grow it along with purple and sweet. This isn’t the same type but something very similar. And the reason why I’m thrilled I can now buy this herb is that it’s not quite as sweet as sweet basil. So, traipsing off last Friday to a superstore (next down from a hyper which is the largest store here in the UK) about 9.6 km (six miles) round trip, on foot, has paid off after all. Besides, what a wonderful escape to head beyond suburbia, past fields packed with vegetables to a…
Superstore! The place has to be the most soul destroying shopping centre I’ve ever been to. Don’t even start me on the lack of architectural merit, nor the hard landscaping for that matter. It’s the sort of shopping complex you drive to, find a parking space as close to the entrance of the store of choosing, shop and drive home. It’s that awful. Even after dark the place wouldn’t look any better – although most people shopping there might! For me right now I don’t have the choice. And the choice happens to be there, to a certain extent. Admittedly I was disappointed there wasn’t a section within the superstore I went to – yes, there are several – devoted to organic vegetables and such. None that I could see. However, the fact that I can now buy this basil along with fresh tarragon, to name only two, is worth the trek in itself. So, there I was with all of five items in the queue for the self checkout sniffing my pot of basil knowing that salads were going to be superb. What I didn’t expect was that this pesto was going to turn out as good as this. Seriously folks, isn’t my life exciting? Hmm…
Serves 2 large portions or 3 – 4 average
- 50g (1.76 oz) x hazelnuts, if bought with skins on they will need to be blanched and peeled (see instructions below)
- 40g (1.41 oz) x Greek style basil, actual weight should be with thick stems removed and discarded, the fine stems and leaves rinsed, dried and chopped
- olive oil (for the red onion and garlic)
- 1 x tablespoon finely grated red onion
- 2 x plump garlic cloves, root ends cut off and discarded, cloves peeled and crushed
- up to 10 x grinds of freshly ground black pepper
- ¹/4 x teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 100ml (0.21 US pt lqd) x extra virgin olive oil + extra to top up if storing pesto in sterilised jars
- 50g (1.76 oz) x Grana Padano cheese, grated
- up to 80g (2.82 oz) x dried pasta of choice, cooked to pack’s instructions and allowed to cool if serving at room temperature
Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.
- If the hazelnuts need to be peeled of their brown skin then add them to a saucepan with just enough water to almost cover them. Put on electric heat No 3 (out of 6) and bring to near simmering. Take off heat, keep the nuts submerged and carefully remove each one and twist, which will hopefully open up the nut into two pieces. Peel, discarding the brown skin.
- Toast the peeled hazelnuts in a dry pan over heat No 2 for about 10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Any signs of scorching take off heat and allow to cool. They should be a pale golden in colour.
- Rinse the basil well and dry with kitchen towels/paper. Finely chop as fine as possible. If using a blender to make this then chop them roughly.
- Put a saucepan on heat No 1 with some olive oil and add the finely grated red onion. Allow to settle, taking the pan off heat if there are any signs of scorching. These don’t need to be cooked. Rather, their rawness needs to be cooked out slightly. They shouldn’t change colour. After a couple of minutes add the crushed garlic and give them a couple of minutes more, stirring through occasionally. Like the onions they don’t need to fully cook, nor change colour. After no more than 5 minutes take off heat and set aside.
- If using a blender then grind the hazelnuts to a coarse texture. Remove them and set aside in a large bowl. Add the basil, oil, red onions, garlic, black pepper and cayenne pepper and grind to a wet paste. Add this paste to the hazelnuts and spoon in the grated Grana Padano cheese. Mix thoroughly.
- If storing for any length of time add to a sterilised jar, pour more extra virgin olive oil on top and add an airtight lid. Keep in the fridge.
- Serve large spoonfuls of the pesto with cooked and chilled pasta, simply stirring the pesto through.
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