Pesto is amazingly quick, easy, adaptable way to make a gorgeous, healthy meal. The problem is, we are all too attached to the pesto alla Genoese recipe. We all know the ubiquitous basil/ pine nuts/ cheese combo and somehow feel that we shouldn’t stray outside this store brought comfort zone. After I got a bad case of pine nut mouth (google it if you haven’t heard of it- you’d be surprised…) I decided to steer well clear in future. A jar of pesto will cost you nowadays between £2.50 and £5, depending on where you get it from, but will only feed around three. It should only contain around 5 ingredients, but the last jar I looked at contained 13. The word pesto comes from pestare in Italian, meaning to bash or pound, (same stem as pestle, as in pestle and mortar) so maybe everybody thinks that they have to pound and bash for hours to get the right result, but nowadays you can get the same effect blitzing it all in a food processor and the sauce is still ready whilst the pasta is cooking.
I made this version after wandering around my local Portuguese market, a place you should never go to when you are hungry. All the fruit and veg looking colourful, mis- shapen and above all delicious, and thought I’d adapt the traditional Sicilian pesto, a blend of tomatoes, garlic, almonds, omega 3 packed anchovies and basil to fit what was available. I couldn’t get any basil, so I used coriander instead, with a lovely zingy fresh tasting result. Apart from the taste benefits, people always underestimate the health benefits of cooking with fresh herbs.
I reckon it is the quickest and probably one of the most healthiest ways to get a tomato sauce on the table. Coupled with a really fresh green salad, and you have the perfect meal.
This should make enough to feed around 6
500g cherry tomatoes
A tbsp or so of capers
60 ml of olive oil
Tsp sea salt
Big handful of herbs, either basil, coriander or parsley and a clove of garlic
60g or so of blanched almonds.
Blend and enjoy!
Tomatoes are full of an anti oxidant called lycopene, which is more easily absorbed by our bodies when they have been chopped, or cooked with a little oil. Lycopene stops cancer cells in our body linking to healthy cells and therefore becoming attached to our blood supply.
Garlic, when chopped or crushed releases a phytochemical called allicin, which has a strong anti oxidant, anti fungal and anti bacterial effect. Raw garlic has a very strong anti cancer effect, due to many different processes, not least it’s ability to induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death, the bodies own process to get rid of unwanted or damaged cells.
As well as being full of chemicals such as linoleum acid which lower your bad cholesterol, Coriander is full of calcium for those bones and iron to keep your iron levels up.
And of course the almonds provide the fibre, keeping that food moving along your digestive tract, as well lots of vitamin E.
I’m not sure how much of that you get in a little shop brought jar of the green stuff.