Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Spaghetti with Hand-Pounded Basil Pesto

We would eat kilos of pesto if we could, such is the popularity of it in our house. Not just on pasta, but also on sandwiches and in soups and salads etc... And if I put all the ingredients into a blender and hit the button - we would do just that - eat buckets of it.

But this pesto is hand-pounded, meaning each ingredient is ground by hand in a mortar and pestle. First one ingredient, then slowly incorporating the next until a bright green creamy emulsion is achieved. Oh yes, my bi-ceps got a work-out.  Hence, we will not be having copious quantities of this stuff.

The up-side of this method of making pesto (apart from the impressive guns I am now sporting), is that the beautiful green is retained. The leaves are bruised rather than cut as they would be in a blender and cut basil leaves go black - fast! Also, the texture is more creamy than the blender method. It is definitely worth the extra work.

The only thing left from our big platter of spaghetti with hand-pounded basil pesto is garlic breath.

Spaghetti with Hand-Pounded Basil Pesto
from Neil Perry's Rockpool Bar and Grill
Serves 4

1/2 small garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus extra to serve
1/2 bunch basil, leaves picked
1 1/2 tablespoon pine nuts
1 tablespoon greshly grated parmesan
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
juice of 1/2 lemon
freshly ground clack pepper

Place the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle, pound to a paste. Add the basil leaves and continue to pound. It takes a while for the basil to break down. Once you've got a thick paste, add the pine nuts and really grind them in. The pesto should be creamy. Add the parmesan, olive oil and lemon juice. Season to taste with more salt, if required, and pepper.

Cook your pasta in loads of well-salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve a little of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and put it into your serving bowl. Pour the pesto over the hot pasta and stir it well. Add some of the reserved pasta water if it's a bit dry. I almost always add extra pasta water to my pasta dishes as the starch in the water helps bind the sauce and gives it body. Give it an extra flourish of olive oil to make it "smile" before taking it to the table flexing your newly formed bi-ceps as you go.

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