Living in remote countries teaches you many things about your ability to cope without certain products. You have a choice of either learning to live without or …making your own! I usually choose the later when it’s possible.
My family simply loves pesto. My youngest daughter could
eat it everyday if she had her way. The prime choice is obviously on pasta but they also love it in rice or potato salad, wraps, sandwiches, scrambled eggs … When we first arrived to Angola, it was a relief to find nice jars of Italian pesto but very quickly the stock started decreasing until there was none. Shipments are very random and sometimes you never see a product once it’s sold out. Luckily there are many fresh herbs available in most supermarkets, so no excuse not to make your own.
I must admit I always have jars of store-bought pesto just because it’s convenient and my kids eat it almost everyday. But, it really cannot compare to the homemade version which is a notch above any readymade product! I love that you can play around with flavours and textures. If I’m not lazy, I’ll use my pestle and mortar but most times (yup, I’m lazy) I just put everything in the blender and a couple of minutes later, I have the tastiest and most fragrant pesto ever! The girls know when I’ve made some just by the beautiful aroma of basil in the house.
Beyond the classic recipe which includes basil and pine nuts, there are endless possibilities. First of all you can put any herb of your liking: spinach, arugula, coriander, mint, parsley or even a mix of two or three different herbs. Secondly, you can choose any nut you want: pistachio, almonds, walnuts, cashew. They each give the pesto a different flavour, don’t be afraid to play around. If you are intolerant or allergic to dairy, you can omit to add the parmesan but if you aren’t, why not try a different cheese? Finally you can always add extras like roasted tomatoes or roasted peppers, olives, capers, chillies, lemongrass. Honestly, you can make pesto everyday and never have the same flavours twice!
Today I used roasted red peppers, dry roasted tomatoes in olive oil, almonds and parmesan cheese.
Roasted Red Pepper Pesto
- 1 big red oven roasted pepper, sliced
- 4 -5 halves of dry roasted tomatoes
- 1/5 c of blanched almonds
- 1 clove of garlic (or more if you want)
- 1 cup of freshly washed and dried basil leaves
- 40 gr parmesan cheese ( I buy mine in chunks but grated is fine too)
- Sea salt to taste
- 2 Tbsp Olive oil *
- Add the almonds to a frying pan and gently dry roast them over medium heat, stirring every once in a while for 5-6 minutes or until they start releasing their oil and are fragrant. Remove from heat and cool.
- In a blender, put the pepper, the tomatoes, the basil leaves, the almonds, the garlic, parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of coarse sea salt.
- Blend until you have a nice purée. Stir the mixture and add the olive oil. Give it a last whizz.
And that’s it! You’ve got yourself a nice, tasty, aromatic pesto. It can keep in the fridge for a couple of days in an airtight container. It might lose some of its colour, adding a squeeze of lemons sometimes helps to retain that vibrant fresh look. If you decide to make a big batch, you can always freeze the pesto in ice cube trays and that way you you’ll always have it handy!
NOTE * I try not to add too much oil to my pesto (just enough for the sauce to come together) because I like to add olive oil to my cooked pasta when I put everything together. But you can add more if you want.