Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tagliatelle with Rustic Genoese-Style Pesto

A marvel of simplicity, pesto is a celebrated treasure of Mediterranean cuisine. With a lush landscape on the Mediterranean coast in Northwest Italy, Liguria has a unique microclimate that produces all of the ingredients used to make their traditional pesto — Genovese basil, Ligurian extra virgin olive oil and even pine nuts from the stone pines that grow in abundance. Served with either Trenette, a long, thin, flat pasta similar to tagliatelle, or fresh Trofie, a short, squiggly noodle, Ligurians are very proud of their pesto and fiercely defend their traditional recipe. The term 'pesto' derives from the Italian verb 'pestare', which means 'to crush or pound', because for a true Ligurian pesto, the ingredients must be crushed using a wooden pestle and marble mortar. First, garlic and pine nuts are placed in the mortar and reduced to a cream, then the basil leaves are added with coarse salt and ground to a creamy consistency. Only then is a mix of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino added with a little extra-virgin olive oil. Another technique popular among purists to create the perfect rustic pesto, is by chopping all the ingredients by hand, preferably with a sharp mezzaluna or large knife, which results in a coarsely textured, wonderfully fragrant and richly flavoured pesto. A fragrant, green treasure, any pesto made with love is a culinary superstar.

We served the Tagliatelle with a delicious Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi from Le Marche

Tagliatelle alla Pesto Genovese
Serves 4

3 cups fresh basil leaves, firmly packed 
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp Maldon salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1cup grated pecorino, plus more for garnish 
1 lb quality dried tagliatelle pasta

Place the garlic and a pinch of salt on a cutting board. With a sharp chef's knife, chop it as finely as possible, then scrape into a bowl. Then finely chop the pine nuts and add to the garlic. Roll the basil leaves into a tight ball and chop coarsely, then add to the bowl followed by the grated cheese and olive oil. Using a wooden spoon, mix together into a paste and season generously with salt and pepper. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, then add the tagliatelle and stirring occasionally, cook until al dente. Drain, reserving about ½ cup pasta cooking liquid, and add the hot pasta to the large serving bowl with the pesto, and toss thoroughly to combine. If pasta seems dry, add a splash of pasta cooking liquid to moisten. Taste and season with more salt as desired, and serve the pasta with extra grated cheese on the side.

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