Produce in the glasshouse has been thriving this season, and as a result i have tomatoes and basil galore, not to mention a great crop of chilli peppers coming along, and my first ever capsicums. Anyway, i've been perusing the recipe books for novel ways to help me use my vast quantities of tomatoes and basil. Pesto isn't exactly novel, and neither are tomatoes
combined with pasta (nor even pesto with pasta for that matter), however Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall's recipe for 'linguine with mint and almond pesto and tomatoes' does have delightful simplicity in its favour. Of course i have substituted basil pesto for the mint, since it is basil i am trying to make the most of; i do have mint, but unlike other home-grown items i never feel like i am 'wasting' it if i don't use all i have available. Also my mint is just in its regrowth phase, as i cut it back a few weeks ago to encourage fresh new growth; maybe i'll try Hugh's mint pesto recipe some time for variety. The recipe is in the 'River Cottage Veg Everyday!' cookbook, which was gifted to me by a sister-in-law. It's an excellent book, with heaps of lovely simple recipes. If you want to increase the amount of vegetables in your diet, then Hugh's book will most definitely help you on your way.
As i've mentioned earlier, my tomato glut is entirely the cherry variety, for which i'm grateful - if they were any larger i would be spending some of the hottest days of the year stuck in the kitchen up to my elbows in tomatoes, making sauces and relish galore. As it is, i may yet need to make some more pizza/pasta sauce (see November's recipe) so as not to let any go to waste.
As for the pesto, i made a couple of batches and will freeze quite a lot for use over non-basil-productive months. I made one lot with blanched almonds and one lot with walnuts. I can't tell you which i prefer based on the type of nut, as i varied a few other things between the batches as well. Treat the recipe below as a guide for your pesto making, but don't feel the need to follow it religiously - just taste regularly and tweak as required to suit your taste buds. In my walnut batch i used only basil and no parsley or mint. However parsley is a good addition for helping your pesto to stay a vibrant green, as basil leaves bruise so easily that they tend to turn a rather dull green during processing.
SPAGHETTI WITH BASIL PESTO AND CHERRY TOMATOES
Based on recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's 'River Cottage Veg Every Day!'
400g cherry tomatoes, quartered
Cracked black pepper
20 basil leaves, roughly chopped
For the Basil Pesto:
50 g pine nuts, walnuts or blanched almonds
Large bunch of basil (about 30 g), leaves only
Large bunch of parsley (about 30 g), leaves only
A small handful of mint leaves (optional)
1 garlic clove, chopped
50 g Parmesan, finely grated
Finely grated zest of a lemon
100-150 ml extra virgin olive oil
A good squeeze of lemon juice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
First make the pesto: put the toasted nuts into a food processor along with the herbs, garlic, grated cheese and lemon zest. Blitz to a paste, then, with the motor running, slowly pour in the olive oil until you have a thick, slightly sloppy puree. Scrape the pesto into a bowl and season with salt, pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice. This will keep in the fridge for a few days.
Put a large pan of well-salted water on to boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain well, then toss with the pesto and around half the tomatoes.
Divide between warmed serving bowls or plates and top with the remaining tomatoes and the roughly chopped basil leaves. Serve straight away, scattered with Parmesan cheese shavings.