Pesto With A Twist

Pesto with a Twist

Pesto With A Twist

In Italy, pesto would mean a specific pesto originating in Genoa, Pesto alla Genovese. This fragrant sauce is made slowly by crushing or pounding locally grown Genoese basil together with garlic, pine nuts, salt, Parmigiano Reggiano and olive oil in a marble mortar and pestle. It’s hard work and takes time, but traditions are there to be admired and learnt from – the results are, without a doubt, superior. A mortar and pestle also keep the basil leaves green while a food processor tends to make the leaves darken. And while we applaud the traditional version, there are so many other ingredients that we can use to make a delicious pesto or green sauce. After all, the word ‘pesto’ in Italian is a generic term meaning ‘to pound or crush’. Let’s pound and crush these ingredients to make something fresh and tasty:

Mint and coriander pesto with chilli

A spicy pesto that is often the base for fragrant curries in the Malaysian style, but can also be used as a fragrant pesto for grilled or Panko prawns.

  • 1 cup fresh coriander leaves and stems
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1 – 2 chillies
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1⁄2 cup roasted cashew nuts
  • Virgin olive oil
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Salt and pepper

Blend all the ingredients together, adding olive oil to form a chunky paste. Serve with fried Panko prawns, chicken strips or fresh vegetable batons.

Cheesy pesto straws

Upgrade a retro cheese straw recipe with tangy pesto and melty cheese. Plus, they are so easy to make that it will take no time to produce a fabulous snack.

  • 2 sheets ready-made puff pastry
  • 1⁄2 cup pesto (any type will do)
  • 1 cup mozzarella, grated
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1⁄4 cup Parmesan, finely grated

Lay down one sheet of pastry and spread out the pesto. Cover with mozzarella and season with salt and pepper. Top with the second sheet of pastry. Use a rolling pin to squash the two layers together. Cut into 1cm strips and twist as you place them on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with Parmesan and extra salt. Bake at 200°C for 10 – 12 minutes, until golden. Cool on a wire rack and serve.

Watercress and baby spinach pesto

There are many things that can go into a pesto, so experiment with flavours you like and add alternatives to nuts, like seeds.

  • 1 cup watercress
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1⁄2 cup Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1⁄2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a pan with a little olive oil until they begin to jump out of the pan. Add the watercress and spinach to a food processor, add the rest of the ingredients and start blending. Add olive oil until it all comes together in a glossy, chunky pesto. Check the seasoning and serve.

The Gardener