Food Pesto

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Alex Rychlewski, Jul 13, 2018.

  1. I am a huge pesto fan, although I don’t like the stuff in a jar very much.
    I figure that fresh well-made pesto with good pasta is food fit for the gods :).

    Winewise, it’s probably too strong a flavor for fine wines, but boy, oh boy, does pesto ever partner well with most red wines (sorry, I wouldn’t think to serve a white).
    I don’t tend to eat pesto with anything other than pasta and I’ve never been tempted by red pesto. Is it a worthwhile variation?

    I have a basil plant that has become enormously bushy and I probably need to do something with the leaves before I go away on vacation next week (to England, it so happens).

    I’ve often made pesto, but never really bother to use precise proportions of ingredients… Do any of you have any special recommendations about making it?
    Apparently almonds can replace pine nuts without denaturing the beast.
    Also, I know that you're supposed to use a mortar and pestle, but I have no qualms about using a food processer/mixer. I doubt the results are any less good... It reminds me of insisting on using a wooden spoon for risotto. Not really necessary, in my opinion.

    What I’m especially keen to hear about is people’s experience with freezing the stuff. I’ve done some research on the Internet and there are various schools of thought on the subject… Apparently, if you blanch the leaves, your pesto will have a much more attractive green color, but you will lose flavor. Some people recommend ice cube trays. Others flat sheets.
    Everyone suggests a film of olive oil on the top.

    Best regards,
    Alex R.
  2. Love pesto and make it quite often. I find blitzing the whole thing is detrimental to the texture, but can't be bothered with pestle and mortar, so I blitz the basil in the oil and add chopped nuts and grated Parmesan.

    Not a fan of red pesto. My favourite variant is with wild garlic and walnuts.
  3. White wine for me please!

    I’ll admit we tend to use a jar, we can’t get good enough basil.

    Do you (or your wife) have a preference for a brand of gluten free pasta Alex?
  4. Hi Russell,

    We’ve tried various brands, believe me.
    Unsurprisingly, the Italians win out, especially Garofalo, which is pretty widely available here (better than Barilla).
    You can buy over Amazon:

    Apparently, gluten intolerance and all sorts of allergies are very much on the rise in the West. As for Italy, their diet relies so heavily on wheat flour that every child must be tested for coeliac disease and restaurants everywhere are able to cope with this, much better than in France.

    Alex R.
  5. That’s good to know. I’m off to Italy next month.

    We really only have Barilla here. I’ll check the other brand though.
  6. It's a question largely of getting the right kind of basil, which is not easy but not impossible, and Italian pine kernels.If they are not Italian I would omit them, the Chinese ones don't taste good and I know I'm not the only person here who will never again risk getting 'pine mouth' from them. Basil ground in a mortar(blanching really does attenuate the flavour unreasonably) with salt and olive oil freezes very well, the cheese (some Pecorino romano mixed with the parmesan ) and garlic can be added after defrosting.
    The traditional addition of green beans and potatoes to the spaghetti or trofie and pesto is highly recommended.
    Neil Holland likes this.
  7. I make lots of pesto of one type or another. I haven't used pine nuts since a terrible attack of pine-mouth c.10 years ago (& I've never seen Italian ones for sale here), but other nuts are used authentically in Italian pestos so I'm not fretting about that. Basil pasto I use almonds - I've seen a Sicilian variation that swings that way, so I reckon that's good enough.

    But other pestos are great too - here's a couple...

    - Sorrel - I'm overrun with sorrel in the garden just now - the lemony flavour makes a delicious fresh pesto - roughly 50:50 sorrel & flat leaf parsley blitzed with crushed garlic to taste, olive oil, toasted hazelnuts, grated cheese - I've done this with parmesan but even better is Ribblesdale hard mature goat cheese that seems to complement the zesty sorrel really well.

    - Nettle - was given this with gnocchi in a restaurant in Piemonte & have found it easy to replicate. The additional chore is having to blanch/cool/squeeze the nettles but then combine in the usual way with flat leaf parsley, toasted hazels, parmesan, oil, garlic.

    I should add I use the good olive oil for pesto - makes a real difference IMO

    Also essential is tasting and adjusting to taste during the construction process - I start with a fixed quantity of the greenery and add more garlic/nuts/cheese in steps as needed to achieve balance.
  8. Rocket is also very good
    Andy Leslie likes this.
  9. Camisa in Old Compton Street have them and they are easily available online. Not cheap though, as they are not in Italy where Ligurian basil is also pretty expensive.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
    Andy Leslie likes this.
  10. K used to make wonderful pesto, though her garlic passion usually shocked friends we saw after eating it. Now she is vegan, it is obviously a pale reflection on account of the lack of (Best IMO) pecorino.

    I agree 100% about the Chinese pine kernels. Definitely you can tell the difference, just as you can with Wachau or Valais apricots and such like.

    The red wine option intrigued me because, just like Russell, white is our natural choice with pesto. Italian whites like Arneis, good Cortese, Pecorino, etc go well, as can Greek whites. But I get less fussy about wine matching the older I get, within reason.

    We don’t only eat it with pasta. In fact I would say that gnocchi would be more common these days.
  11. Sorry to lower the tone but red pesto is great spread on toast. Not bad with pasta.
  12. A well known importer of German wines swears by off dry riesling with pesto.
  13. Hugh Johnson used to suggest NZ Sauv Blanc, which I can certify is a truly terrible match (not that I'm keen on NZ SB anyway). I'm with DC on northern Italian whites with a bit of bite, a lightish red like Valpolicella, or a rustic Biferno, the kind of wine you can only really find in Italy.
  14. When I lived in London, I used to get fresh pesto from I Camisa (made themselves I think) which I recall was very good indeed.

    For a complete basil overload, I'd sometimes get some of their homemade basil tagliatelle.

    It occurs to me that you could make basil pasta with your unruly bush, Alex, and you could freeze that.
  15. A riff on pesto is a sauce I make for pasta in late spring with wild fennel leaves - I add some very fine breadcrumbs to it as well, which seem to work. It's really really tasty - I've no idea whether this has an authentic counterpart.
  16. They are distinctly becalmed these days. As a customer of forty years standing used to a substantial but well managed queue I am quite alarmed, the problem I suppose being that almost everything they sell is widely available nowadays. It has curiously old fashioned virtues, they do not have the finest artisanal produce but everything is in peak condition and beautifully prepared and they slice salumi as carefully and neatly as they do in Italy which nowhere else in London can manage. Their coffee is old fashionedly excellent as is their olive oil.
  17. I was there yesterday and bought some of their salami, cheese and coffee, which remain excellent. What do forumites think of their rival Lina, just around the corner in Brewer St?
  18. Their refit seems to have brought a radical reduction in stock and increase in prices but it's still good.
  19. I must take issue with romano being employed in true pesto alla genovese! Too salty and coarsely-flavoured. The sauce requires the rich unctiousness of good quality sardo.
  20. It depends on which version of each, not all romano is coarse and most sardinian grating cheeses are a bit recalcitrant for this.
  21. Putting a layer of olive oil on top when you freeze it seems to keep the nice colour.

    Good romano is fine IMO (but then my partner is romana and gets the good stuff). And cashews will also substitute for inferior pine nuts. Not sure about almonds myself - to me that's veering into the territory of pesto all trapanese, which is of course a different beast. Top quality olive oil goes without saying.

    Also important not to use the leaves when they get pointy (before flowering). And people say it's best to pick before the sun hits the leaves. Still not 100% sure on this, but if we get any more civilised summers like this one, with basil growing well outside for first time ever, I should find out soon :)
  22. Well I know I’m not alone in venturing into pesto proper for the first time this weekend. I went with cashews, a couple of walnuts, Sardinian pecorino, a touch of grana padano, garlic, olive oil and lots of basil. Served with fusili. Not bothered if authentic, it tasted great. Thanks you lot for a inspiration
  23. I'm really not convinced by cashews, I'm sure they taste fine but they are not very Italian.
  24. Me neither... pine nuts and lemons (not cashews and lime as you see in other recipes).
  25. I would like to thank the many people who contributed to this thread and gave me some great ideas.

    I would particularly like to use the Italian pine nuts (I had not idea that the ubiquitous Chinese ones were less than ideal) but cannot buy any where I live. Perhaps I will try to order some over the Internet.

    All the best,

Share This Page