I still miss Italy, but at least I was able to bring a little bit of it home with me. I brought back "The Perfumes and Flavours of Liguria" by Laura Rangoni. It's not the most fancy or professional cookbook out there, but it has authentic recipes of the region. I also figured it would be a fun experience because these recipes are not quite as scientific as the test-kitchened to death recipes in a professional magazine/cookbook/cooking show. The directions are not always translated well, amounts are in grams or sometimes not given. Sometimes there are question marks in lieu of cooking times.
I started with pesto, because not only is it easy to make, but pesto is everywhere in this region. It was invented here and every restaurant has at least one pesto dish. It's even in the soup. This makes me happy, because I have always been a fan of pesto. It is delicious and is an alternative to tomato sauce that is not creamy and bad for you. My favorite sauce of all time, practically, is Trader Joe's cilantro-walnut pesto. I can go through a jar of that right quick.
I now have my own basil plant (pictured above) but it's not big enough for me to pull 40-50 leaves off of it without totally embarassing it, so I left it alone for now and instead purchased some fresh sweet basil from the market. I can't tell you how much I appreciate having a market in walking distance that sells fresh bunches of herbs.
I have given you the same recipe I used, but I have to give some info about this. First, a whole cup is a lot of oil. You probably don't need that much. I ended up putting a bunch of extra basil leaves in because I used the whole cup of oil and then thought it was too much. Also, the garlic is a bit much as well. My garlic had a mutant giant clove on it, so I only used four and this still turned out super garlicky. I would put in 2-3 cloves, taste, and then add more if needed after that. Unless you like garlic alot. Then you could go ahead and throw in 4-5 from the get-go.
J. thoughtfully bought me some pasta that "looked kind of like" trofie, the local Ligurian pasta so we could create an almost authentic Ligurian dish. I put my pesto in a jar because I wanted it to look cool and we have this whole colony of jars at the back of our fridge that really need to be emptied, scoured with boiling water and re-used because I don't think the current contents are ever going to be used.
It turned out to look very cute, and as an added bonus, my apartment smelled like basil for the rest of the afternoon.
- 40-50 small fresh basil leaves
- 1 spoonful grated sheep's milk cheese
- 4 spoonfuls grated parmesan
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1 cup olive oil
- 5-6 cloves garlic