I don’t like monotony. Can’t go 2 months without finding a new hobby. I hate doing repetitive tasks at work. My playlist is continuously changing and if I eat the same thing more than 2 times in the same month, I’ll get sick of it and probably won’t eat it again for the next 6 months.
Although the above, for some mystical mysterious reasons, does not apply to Pesto.
Growing up with a grandmother that didn’t really know how to cook, I often hated the food on the table. It was mainly the same things over and over again. The 5 years I was in high school, I used to come home around 2 PM really hungry and every single day I would find on the table the same damn thing: Pasta with Pesto.
But I never complained. The few times my friends came to my house for lunch they were making fun of the fixed menu and – knowing my attitude towards monotony – asking me how I could stand it. Well, I could. I loved it every single day and I still do.
It will be one of the unsolved mysteries of my life. I still don’t know why but I deeply and profoundly love the taste of Pesto together with Pasta. Like a happily married couple, always in perfect harmony.
Of course, the Pesto I grew up with was store bought, never handmade. But still, it was perfect.
You can really taste the difference between homemade and store bought. But I’m not ashamed to say that some good brands make a good jarred Pesto too.
Pesto in not from Tuscany – where I come from – but from Liguria, our neighbor region.
Unlike most regional food in Italy, Pesto is well known and appreciated throughout the whole Country and, of course, worldwide (even though around the world is often misused, but I won’t go in that argument).
Traditionally, Pesto is made with mortar and pestle (from which the name is derived). In our modern and frantic age, however, it is more commonly made with a blender. The ingredients are always the same: Basil, Salt, Pine Nuts, Parmigiano, Olive oil and Garlic. Only the last ingredient is optional, for the people who hate garlic.
The traditional Pasta that goes perfectly with Pesto is Trofie. And another version of the classic Trofie al Pesto is with the addition of boiled potatoes and string beans (it doesn’t sound right but it’s really really delicious!).
How to make Trofie Pasta
Trofie is one of the most difficult pasta shape to make by hand (at least for me) and I’m still far far away from perfection. But it still tastes good, so it’s enough for now.
To make them, take a tiny bit of pasta dough and roll it with your hands to make it about 3-4 cm (1.5 in). Then place it on the cutting board (preferably a wooden one) and with the side of the hand, roll it sliding from side to side so the pasta will twist. If with the hand it’s too difficult, you can try to do the same movement with a butter knife or with a pasta scraper. (Check some YouTube videos to help you understand the exact movement).
- 170g (1 cup) Semolina Flour
- a pinch of Salt
- 1/2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 25g (0.9 oz) Basil leaves
- 1/2 tbsp Pine nuts
- 1 - 2 tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1/2 Garlic clove
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- First make the pasta dough adding the pinch of salt to the semolina flour, then slowly add water until the dough becomes slightly sticky. Add the olive oil and keep kneading the dough. If it's too sticky add some more flour, if it's falling apart, add some more water. When you have a soft smooth ball of dough, cover in plastic foil and set in the fridge to rest for about 10 minutes.
- While the pasta rests, you can make the Pesto. If you're using pestle and mortar, start by crushing the garlic, then add the basil and grind until the leaves are completely crushed. Add the pine nuts and cheese and then continue grinding while adding the olive oil little by little until you get the right consistency.
- If you're using a blender, add all the ingredients together and give it a couple of pulses, then start adding the oil little by little in a thin stream and keep blending until it becomes creamy and lighter in color.
- Adjust with salt and add more cheese or pine nuts to your taste.
- NOTE: You shouldn't blend more than a couple of minutes, otherwise the pesto will heat up and the basil leaves will oxidize.
- To make the Trofie, dust a wooden or marble board with semolina flour and knead the pasta until it doesn't stick anymore to the board. Cut it in small chunks of the same thickness then roll them into thin strips then make the Trofie shape by rolling it with your hand or with a butter knife (see post above for more details).
- Cook the pasta in salted boiling water for 3-4 minutes and serve immediately with the Pesto (the Pesto doesn't need any additional cooking).
Have you ever made pesto? Let me know in a comment below!