backyard basil pesto

Mary Mary Quite Contrary, how does your basil grow?  My basil is happier than it’s been for months. After all that beautiful rain we were working like crazy at Weka Weka today. An overloaded ute of sugar cane mulch to spread and every weed variety known to mankind trying to spoil our fun.  A new plot of basil, only planted four weeks ago has me running for the deli tomorrow - a big block of Parmesan and bag of pine nuts please! Check out the rows of cultivated basil in Liguria, Italy.  And I thought ours at Weka was a bit special. Pesto anyone?

Ingredients- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with back of a chefs knife ❤ 50 grams pine nuts, macadamia nuts or walnuts (whichever you prefer) ❤ 120 grams freshly picked basil, stems removed (also try it with rocket if you like) ❤ 150-180 ml good quality extra virgin Olive Oil ❤ 50 grams Parmesan (Grano Padano or Reggiano) or Pecorino finely grated, plus extra shaved to serve 

Note: This makes enough pesto for a small batch ie. enough for generous serving of four pasta meals. Lovely also served with green beans and baby potatoes sliced thinly. You can easily double or triple this recipe.

Method + Tips 

Put garlic and nuts in a chopper/food processor and process until well ground. If you prefer using the traditional mortar & pestle that’s great too. Add in basil leaves and olive oil, a little at a time while still processing or pounding. When you have a thick puree stop adding the olive oil. Mix though finely grated Parmesan until well combined. Good Parmesan cheese is naturally salty so taste for seasoning before adding any extra salt.  

Cook pasta until al dente. Always reserve a little of the pasta cooking water. Henri & Anna Burke at Pasta al Dente West End have been making Queensland’s finest fresh pasta for 34 years. Alternatively try the pasta maker at your local weekend Farmers Markets or buy Barilla packet pasta Trenette or Spaghetti.

Return pasta to the pan, add cooked vegetables (optional), dollop pesto over pasta and mix well, using a little of the reserved water if necessary. Top with extra shaved parmesan & enjoy immediately. 

Tip: Always cover leftover pesto sauce in the jar with a thin film of olive oil on top to prevent oxidising and turning brown. Refrigerate until next time.

Seasonal Jotting

Pesto Sauce is the perfect gourmet solution to a bumper basil crop, either at home, next door at your neighbours or your local fruit shop. If you don’t have your own basil growing in a pot or your back garden - plant some very soon, before the weather cools down. 

InSeason Gourmet on the Gold Coast make an excellent feta & basil and feta & rocket pesto you’ll love, plus fab pita crisps, dips and spreads - stocked at good delis. 

A bowl of hot spaghetti tossed with fresh pesto & shaved parmesan is tonights dinner so easily taken care of. I’ll never forget a cheap & very cheerful youth hostel in Genova.  My bed for the night after a long and spectacular walk through the five coastal towns known as ‘Cinque Terre’.  Eating pesto in its traditional home of Liguria is a real treat.

Better yet, the satisfaction of making your own to the traditional recipe and perhaps even using our local macadamias instead of imported pine nuts. Always use the best quality extra Virgin Olive Oil you can afford. I buy local whenever possible - in this instance from Cominos Olive Groves in the Darling Downs.  Buon appetito.