Pesto

Pesto is a super easy way to add some serious flavour to a whole variety of dishes.

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In my first trip overseas as an adult, I went to Italy and stayed in a little town on the Cinque Terre coast…take me back! While I was there, I did a cooking course, which involved making pesto, Italian style. All the participants made their own version of pesto, using the same 6 ingredients, basil, parmesan cheese, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and salt, just adding our own quantity of each ingredient. We then tried everyones pesto, and they were all so different, it was incredible. I have no idea what the quantities of my pesto back then were, but this recipe outlines the quantities I use now.

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I like to use pesto as a dip, to mix through pasta, vegetables or risotto or even to make scrambled eggs more delicious (see recipe below). One of my favourite dishes to use pesto in is my Roast Tomato and Pesto Risotto, a lighter risotto that is great for warmer nights.

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Nutritionally, the pine nuts in pesto provide a good source of protein and healthy fats. The olive oil is also and excellent source of healthy fats. Garlic is from the allium family and has a great deal of health benefits and can help boost the immune system, decrease blood pressure and it is an excellent source of manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C and selenium. The basil itself, which makes up the majority of the pesto, and actually belongs to the same family as mint. It is a potent antibacterial that contains antioxidants, including polyphenols flavonoids and anthocyanin. It may also have anti-inflammatory properties.

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Pesto, is something you can make and store in the fridge. It will keep well, provided it isn’t exposed to the air. Covering the exposed pesto with a layer of olive oil will keep it fresh.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large handfuls of basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (toasting optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 50g parmesan, grated
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Begin by toasting the pine nuts in a small frypan over medium heat, until they are golden brown. This step isn’t necessary, but it gives the pesto a deeper flavour if you do toast them. Allow them to cool completely.
  2. Place the basil, pine nuts, garlic and parmesan into the food processor, process for~1 minute. With the motor running, add the olive oil and process until smooth.
  3. Set aside until needed.

 

Pesto Scrambled Eggs:

  1. To make the pesto scrambled eggs, combine 1-2 eggs per person into a small bowl, along with 1 tsp of cream per person, 2 tsp of pesto, salt and pepper. Beat well to combine.
  2. Heat a small non-stick fry pan over medium heat. Add 1 tbs of olive oil and gently pour the egg mix into the frypan. Gently move the eggs around the pan with a spatula, until just cooked and glossy.
  3. Once the mixture is glossy, turn off the heat and serve the eggs.

 

Roast Tomato and Pesto Risotto

Every Summer without fail, regardless of how many tomato plants we plant, we always have an excess, which I think is most likely the case with everyone who has ever grown tomatoes. For the past 2 years all of our tomato plants have self seeded and have been the Tommy Toe variety (cherry tomatoes), hence this recipe came about. Despite it being Autumn and tomato season pretty much over, todays tomatoes were courtesy of my Mother-in-law clearing out her veggies before a trip away.

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The combination of tomato and basil has always been an amazing one, and pesto…pesto is delicious! As risotto can generally take at a good half hour or so of cooking, the great thing about this one is that the tomatoes can be roasted and the pesto be made earlier in the day, leaving just the stirring of the risotto at the busy end of the day.

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The tomatoes need to be slow roasted, so allow some time for this, a good 45-60 minutes.

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If you want to make a double batch and save some leftovers for the next day, it’s definitely worth it as the flavours of the pesto really deepen with some time.

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The kids also enjoyed this one, once I actually convinced them to try it because is wasn’t ‘white risotto with pumpkin’! Once they actually tried it, I was told “Yummy Mum”.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 500g cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 2 leeks, finely slices
  • 2 cloves garlic, cruhsed
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 4 large broccoli florets, cut into small florets (optional)
  • 1 tbs pine nuts, toasted

Pesto

  • 2 large handfuls of basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 50g parmesan, grated
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. To make the pesto, place the basil, pine nuts, garlic and parmesan into the food processor, process for~1 minute. With the motor running, add the olive oil and process until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 120°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  3. Slice the tomatoes in half, place onto baking tray and drizzle 1 tbs of olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes, along with some salt and pepper and mix gently. Bake for 45-60 minutes.
  4. For the risotto, heat 1 tbs of oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add leek and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes until translucent.
  5. Add the rice and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the wine and cook until almost absorbed.
  6. Add stock 1 cup at a time, allowing for it to be mostly absorbed before adding more. Repeat until all stock has been added and rice is tender and no longer crunchy. When adding the final cup of stock, add the broccoli as well.
  7. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a small frypan until golden (2-3 minutes).
  8. Once the rice is cooked, turn off the heat and add the pesto. Stir through until well combined. Season as desired.
  9. Divide the risotto into 4 bowls and top with the roast tomatoes, pine nuts and extra basil leaves.