Pesto in the garden

Despite the cool weather, I have just been enjoying a plate of spaghetti and pesto in the garden.
Pleasant as the jars of ready-made pesto you can buy are, I much prefer to make my own. The classic recipe specifies pine nuts, but the ones in cellophane packets often don’t taste very nice. I find you can substitute other nuts, and in fact other herbs besides the traditional basil – I have used parsley and even mint in the past with great success.

I bought this basil plant for a photoshoot and have been eating it ever since

I bought this basil plant for a photoshoot and have been eating it ever since

The only essentials are garlic and olive oil – and even the latter doesn’t have to be the best quality, as the raw garlic all but slaughters the other flavours.
This is how I made it. While the spaghetti was cooking, I pounded to a paste three cloves of garlic, sea salt and black peppercorns, then some basil leaves. I threw in a handful of hazelnuts, but gave these only a gentle bashing – too much and they go oily, and I like a few nutty chunks here and there. Then I stirred in grated parmesan (again, I have used cheddar in the past when that was all there was in the fridge) and olive oil. I added it straight to the cooked spaghetti – the pesto actually cools this down to that lukewarm temperature that’s so appropriate to Mediterranean food.
This is a dish that has to be consumed alone, or at least only with someone of whom you are extremely fond – because of the garlic.

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