book excerpt - Pesto. Is there any other ingredient that so perfectly captures the essence of summer? To open and smell a jar of properly made pesto is to be immediately transported to a still, cloudless morning, waking on crisp linen sheets to the sound of ducks foraging in the wood heap for worms while somewhere off in the distance a young shirtless farmhand cuts hay with muscular strokes of his broad, suntanned arms. I love pesto.
handful freshly grated pecorinoplus extra to serve
extra-virgin olive oil
small squeeze of lemon juiceoptional
freshly ground black pepper
Pound the garlic and basil leaves with a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle. Add the pine nuts and pound some more. (Some people toast the pine nuts until they're coloured, as this gives them a more nutty taste, but I prefer to just lightly toast them as it brings out more of a buttery creaminess than a nutty nuttiness.)
Spoon the mixture into another bowl and add half the cheese, along with a little olive oil. You only need enough oil to bind everything, so don't overdo things.
Add the remaining cheese and a little more oil, enough to keep the pesto moist. You might like to add a squeeze of lemon juice at this stage but I don't so neither should you.
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and stir through the pesto.
Serve with grated pecorino and freshly ground black pepper.
Audrey's Tip - Though simple, this makes an ideal light lunch, hearty enough that little else need to be served except perhaps a bowl of fresh apricots and some ginger tea. So I was surprised to discover Helena munching hazelnut pralines out on our patio a short while later. Hopefully, your guests will exhibit a little more self-control.