Pesto is one of my favourite go-to sauces to make. I usually make it with basil I have grown, but it is fabulous made with other leaves: wild garlic makes a stunning pesto and rocket, which I have used here, gives a nice peppery kick. Here I give my favourite way of serving pesto: with freshly made pasta and crispy chorizo.
Updated: Jan 2019: new photos
Commercial pesto is invariably revolting: with the occasional exception of the fresh pesto that comes in the chiller section of the shops. And while there are some great stand-by commercial sauces out there, pesto is a sauce that needs to be home-made.
Pesto is actually one of the easiest sauces to make: you can literally pop everything in a blender or mini food processor and blitz, going either for a smooth paste or a more chunky texture.
I must confess that I like using my granite pestle and mortar for pesto: there is something intensely satisfying making pesto by hand in this way, and I do like a slightly chunkier pesto.
I made both pesto and pasta during my time on Britain’s Best Home Cook, including one of the dishes I made in the final, but sadly not in the same dish: as great a combination as these two are, I just could not work them in together!
I love this served just as it is, but a good flatbread or focaccia always goes down well. My recipe for anchovy, onion and garlic focaccia is here.
You can vary the amount of the ingredients in the pesto for personal taste: I prefer to go for less oil as I like my pesto on the thicker side, but you can add more if you prefer.
I love making pasta and often make a large quantity, freezing some of the dough for a later meal. But a good bought pasta, ideally fresh (made with egg) is wonderful.
I do use my pasta machine, working it down to the penltimate setting before cutting it.
For home-made pasta, I tend to go for 1 medium egg plus 1 medium egg yolk for every 100g flour.
Recipe: pasta with wild rocket pesto & crispy chorizo – serves 2 generously
- 60g wild rocket
- 1 large garlic clove, peeled.
- 100ml extra-virgin olive
- 2 tablespoons very lightly toasted pine nuts.
- 30g Parmesan, finely grated.
- a spritz of lemon juice
- pinch of fine sea salt
- a grinding or two of black pepper
Pasta (or use fresh bought pasta of choice):
- 100g strong plain white flour or type 00 pasta flour
- 1 medium egg
- 1 medium egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- about 100g chorizo, cut into thickish chunks and fried in a dry pan for a few minutes until crisp
- a few toasted pine nuts
- a generous grating of Parmesan
(1) If making the pasta, mix the ingredients in a bowl until it comes together and knead well for about 5 minutes until it is smooth and slightly stretchy. Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest for about 30 minutes: this can be made way in advance and left in the fridge until needed, or even frozen.
(2) Roll out the pasta with a pasta machine, going to the second lowest setting, and then cut with whatever of the pasta cutters you want to use on the machine: alternatively, cut into thin tagliatelle by hand.
(3) Make the pesto: pop all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until either smooth or fairly coarse: this takes moments. Taste and adjust flavouring if you feel it needs it eg) extra Parmesan, lemon, salt….
(4) Boil the pasta in well salted water for a couple of minutes (or refer to the packet for bought pasta). Drain well.
(5) Toss the pasta in the pesto, stirring through the chorizo. Sprinkle over some toasted pine nuts and a grating of Parmesan.