Grains and Pasta

Spring Herb Pesto and Antonio Carluccio

by editor on March 28, 2011

Spring Herb Pesto Tagliolini

Who were your heroes growing up? Mine were a rather eclectic, and in retrospect partially embarrassing collection of chefs, musicians and writers. One of my enduring favorites is Antonio Carluccio, an Italian chef, lifelong champion of foraging and early Jamie Oliver mentor. Digging in the dirt with bare hands, scraping earth off mushrooms and truffles with a pocket knife, before conjuring it all into something sizzling and frequently involving bread or pasta, his TV shows were a perpetually hungry child’s dream. If you’ve read his books, you know they’re also a visual and edible treat, filled with gorgeous earthy photography of simple, real food like this Spring Herb Pesto – a variation of one of his recipes that I’ve been making for years.

Fast forward to this winter in London, as we hurried back to our flat through South Kensington, hungry and looking for shelter from a driving snowstorm. Spotting a Carluccio’s – part of an international chain he started but has since sold – we ducked inside. We were warmly welcomed with good wine, fragrant pillows of freshly baked focaccia and a table right next to (gasp) Carluccio himself as he enjoyed a holiday dinner with family and friends. Besides a walking cane (carved himself, with a samurai knife no less…), he was no different than he appeared all those years ago on TV, eagerly attending to his guests and customers with characteristic ebullience and not a hint of superiority. Full, happy and incredulous at the randomness of life, I don’t think I even noticed the ice cold sleet on the way home.

Spring Herb Pesto Tagliolini

In typical Carluccio style, this simple dish is bursting with fresh, earthy flavor, yet none of the herbs are overpowering. It’s a staple at my house throughout spring and summer, and I often play around with the mix of herbs – maybe adding some thyme and oregano or whatever is abundant in the garden. Serve alone with rustic bread and a lighter red, or a crisp and herbal New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Serve it as a side to just about anything – spring lamb, roast pork tenderloin or your favorite roast chicken. Enjoy!

Spring Herb Pesto Tagliolini

Antonio Carluccio is the author of numerous books, including The Complete Mushroom Book. Be sure to take a peek at his friendly and instructional iPad/iPhone app called “Antonio Carluccio’s Simple Cooking” ($6.99 from the iTunes App Store)

Spring Herb Pesto with Tagliolini
Adapted from “An Invitation to Italian Cooking” by Antonio Carluccio | Serves 4

1 lb (450g) freshly made ribbon pasta or 14 oz (400g) dried fettucine/tagliolini
made with eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Sauce
2 tbsp mint, finely chopped
2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp basil, finely chopped
1 tbsp dill, finely chopped
1 tbsp sage, finely chopped
1 oz (30g) pine nuts, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 stick / 4 oz (115g) butter
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 oz (30g) parmesan, freshly grated
1 large lemon, extra parmesan to serve

Place chopped herbs, pine nuts and oil in a medium bowl and mix together.

In a small pan melt butter and stir in garlic. Cook for a few minutes until garlic is just softened.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water, according to directions. Drain, and set aside about a 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Pour garlic and butter into herbs, along with grated parmesan and a little salt and pepper.

Mix together until well combined, adding a splash or two of the reserved pasta water to make sauce creamier.

Toss pasta with herb paste, taste for seasoning adding more salt if necessary.

Serve immediately on warm plates, topped with a generous squeeze of lemon juice and an extra sprinkle of parmesan.

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Kale, Lemon and Toasted Walnut Pesto

by editor on November 17, 2010

Kale Lemon Walnut Pesto

There’s an awful lot of child-feeding advice out there that involves secreting green vegetables in unlikely places like brownies or disguising Brussels sprouts as monster shaped chicken nuggets. This kale pesto might have the same effect for adults who dislike the CSA box frequent flier and frilly member of the cabbage family, and it makes a lovely change if you can’t face another plate of wilted leafy greens that taste of too much garlic.

Winter pesto can be made with kale, spinach, chard, collards and even carrot greens, however this kale version is my personal favorite – the earthy, savory flavor of the kale stands up against the saltiness of the cheese, the walnuts provide a slight yet satisfying chew and the lemon brightens it all up. It’s one reason I’m now rather thrilled to receive a sizeable bunch of kale from Full Circle Farm every week, and I promise you’ll almost forget how much you miss fresh summer basil!

This pesto is delicious with everything from a simple baguette or crostini to pasta or roasted vegetables (I like carrots and potatoes). I also discovered today that spreading the crostini with goat cheese first makes for a heavenly pre-dinner snack.

Kale, Lemon and Toasted Walnut Pesto
Serves 8 as a spread | Makes enough for 2lb pasta

1 bunch (approx. 8oz / 250g) curly kale
1 cup / 4oz / 100g shelled walnuts
3oz / 90g Parmigiano-Regianno or Grana Padano, coarsely grated
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped (more if you like your food garlicky)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tbsp lemon juice (2-3 small lemons)
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

Special Equipment
Food processor

Rinse kale leaves and remove tough stalk by turning leaf over and scoring along the edges of the stalk with a sharp knife. Do not dry leaves, as water from rinsing will be used to steam them.

Place trimmed kale in a medium pan without water and steam briefly, until kale has turned bright green but has not begun to reduce in size. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place walnuts in a small pan. Stir constantly over a medium-high heat until walnuts begin to color slightly and walnut aroma is released. Immediately dump walnuts onto a cold plate to stop cooking and prevent scorching. Set aside to cool.

Place cooled kale, toasted walnuts, cheese and garlic in bowl of food processor. Process while gradually drizzling in olive oil.

Pulse briefly to blend in lemon juice and lemon zest, if using. Season to taste with salt, pepper and red pepper. Pulse briefly to blend.

Serve on bread, crostini or tossed with pasta, peas and some extra lemon juice. Keeps in fridge for a couple of days.

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