Apart from the pasticcini diversion and tasty fried anchovy and courgette flower experiments that I’m hoping to write about next week, we’re still having a parsley phase here at Via mastro giorgio 81. Vincenzo suggested parsley daze might be a more appropriate way of describing the situation, as he ate another mouthful of very green food.
I made the parsley soup again, but this time with vegetable stock. It was good, but the stock was, as I suspected, unnecessary. Parsley soup is, in my opinion, a soup best made with water. Then I made Fergus Henderson’s parsley salad, the one he famously serves with the roast marrow bone at St John, lots of chopped parsley, tiny capers and finely chopped shallots dressed with olive oil and lemon. I ate it with some lardo di colonnata on toast. I should post about that too because it’s delicious. Then I made parsley pesto.
I’ve made parsley pesto before, but this time I’d planned to do some research. Jodi suggested using walnuts instead of pine nuts, another friend uses almonds, I seem to remember reading that you can blanch the parsley first and I wanted to try that. But in the end, time, work and habit meant I made it, like before, using the Genovese basil pesto recipe as a template but substituting basil with parsley. So: pine nuts, really fresh flat leaved parsley, Ligurian olive oil, half parmesan and pecorino sardo and on this occasion, garlic.
Vincenzo is extraordinarily patient. If he’s cooking, he makes pesto in the pestle and mortar, a long, slow grind. I, on the other hand, am not very patient, but do know that pesto made with a pestle and mortar has a texture and consistency that can’t be achieved in a food processor or blender. So I compromise. I pound the nuts and garlic in the pestle and mortar with a little salt which means the garlic is crushed as opposed to being chopped with a blade. Then I tip the nut and garlic paste into bowl, add the parsley a little at a time and use the stick blender to reduce this to a thick, green paste. I try to work the mixture as little as possible. Then using a wooden spoon I gradually stir in the oil, and last but not least, the cheese.
In the absence of linguine or trennete we stirred the pesto into spaghetti alla chittarta. This is a pasta dish that reminds you how important the pasta cooking water is. It is crucial that you use and save some of the water the pasta has been cooking in – it will be cloudy with starch – to loosen the pesto a little. Generally I put a couple of tablespoons of pesto into a warm serving bowl, then just before draining the pasta, I scoop ladleful of the well salted, starchy pasta water into the pesto to thin it into a looser, creamy paste which will coat the pasta. When I drain the pasta I save a little more of the water in case it is required. Finally, I tip the drained pasta into the bowl, stir and add more pesto and pasta water if it’s nessesary, to achieve the silky, slippy, creamy consistency we like.
Parsley pesto may not have the extraordinary peppery, warm, spicy heat of basil pesto, but it has other qualities, it is fragrant, subtle, grassy and wholesome. We both agreed that a little garlic works well with the parsley – I find garlic can overwhelms basil and we often (not always) leave it out of basil pesto. We liked the simplicity of this plateful. We like that parsley is the star.
I think that parsley pesto will be taking occasional turns with basil pesto from now on. I am looking forward to trying this recipe with walnuts, maybe toasting them first, then I’d like to experiment with almonds or as the brilliant Alex suggests, brazil nuts. I imagine parsley pesto could be very good thinned with a little more olive oil and stirred into boiled, sliced new potatoes and slim green beans or a good, green flecked dressing for cherry tomatoes to be piled on toast.
Last thing, I think pesto is a really personal thing, these are loose guidelines, feel free to play around with these measurments and quantities.
Makes a small jar (which gave us 6 servings)
- 2 cloves garlic
- pinch of salt
- 50g pine nuts
- Bunch (about 150g) of Italian flat leaved parsley
- 250ml extra virgin olive oil (preferably a light and fruity one, Ligurian is great)
- 50g freshly grated parmesan and/ or pecorino sardo
Separate the leaves from the parsley and wash and then dry them very carefully and throughly in a clean, dry teatowel.
Either in a food processor or using a pestle and mortar start with the garlic and salt. Smash the garlic and then add the nuts and crush them.
Add the parsley a few leaves at a time and crush or pulse the food processor or stick blender until you have a thick, green paste.
Stop the food processor if you are using it. Now work by hand, preferably with a wooden spoon. Pour in the oil in a thin stream, stirring all the time until it is incorporated. Stir in the cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Serve within a couple of days. The pesto will keep well covered in the fridge with a thin layer of olive oil over it to stop it discoloring. Freeze if you will have any left over after 3 days.
I don’t need to tell you how to cook pasta, but I will note that we eat 100g of pasta each so 200g in total into which we stir in 3 really large tablespoons of parsley pesto.
Talking of Peroni, I’m off for one now. Hope you had a sunny and happy weekend where ever you are.