|36 leaves of basil when blooming. Do not wash, but rather wipe very gently with a cloth|
|A tablespoon of pecorino sardo, not too ripe. [if you can't get sardo, romano can be used rather more sparingly.]|
|A cup of pine kernels|
|Three cloves of garlic|
|A pinch of rock salt|
|A glass of ligurian olive oil|
|A tablespoon of parmiggiano reggiano|
This classic Italian sauce originates in Genova, and has been sadly abused in its travels across the world. Made freshly from juicy green basil, fine virgin olive oil, fresh parmiggiano reggiano and worked by hand in a pestle and mortar, this sauce cannot be beaten. The mass-produced, bottled travesties passing for pesto in modern supermarkets are a crime against humanity.
"In Genova, it is served with spaghetti and round "coins" of boiled new potato, tossed cold into the pasta and served without immediately without cooking.
"Place the basil, garlic and rock salt in a mortar, marble if possible. With the pestle, work these ingredients to a paste against the bowl of the mortar until well pulverised. Gradually work in the two types of cheese, preferably favouring the pecorino. Finally, work these ingredients until a homogenous paste has been made.
"Once the mixture is transferred to a bowl, gradually mix in a medium cup of olive oil with a wooden spoon. Mix until the sauce becomes creamy.
"Immediately toss the sauce, thinned with a tablespoon of the cooking water, to the freshly cooked pasta."
|1 kg fresh tomatoes, well ripened|
|1 - 2 tbsp olive oil|
|1 medium onion, finely chopped|
|2 - 3 big cloves of garlic|
|Leaves from a sprig of basil|
|Salt and black pepper|
What can one say?
Skin the tomatoes by scalding : pour copious boiling water over them and let them stand for about a minute - with sufficient piping hot water, their skins will split and shrink. (Well, wouldn't yours?) The tomatoes can then be drained and skinned by hand. Reserve 3 and dice the remainder.
Heat the olive oil, without letting it smoke and thereby become fatally carcinogenic, and sweat the onions and garlic for 5 minutes, or until translucent and lightly coloured.
Throw in all the chopped tomatoes and about half of the basil,
torn into pieces by hand. Season to taste, and simmer on the
barest heat for at least 1 1/2 hours until well reduced and thick
in texture. Chop the remaining 3 tomatoes, tear the remaining basil
into pieces and mix both in. Serve with plenty of fresh pasta,
preferably spaghetti, tossing the two together in the pan, or
gnocchi, adding parmesan and black pepper at the table to taste.
|2 tablespoons vegetable oil|
|250ml/8floz full-fat milk|
|85g/3oz onion, chopped|
|250ml/8floz dry white wine|
|3 sticks celery, chopped|
|500g/1lb 2oz tinned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice|
|4 medium carrots, chopped|
|350g/12oz beef chuck (see note above)|
|freshly ground black pepper|
|freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese for the table|
Ragù, as the Bolognese call their celebrated meat sauce, is characterised by a mellow, gentle, comfortable flavour that any cook can achieve by being careful about a few basic points:
The meat should not be from too lean a cut; the more marbled it is, the sweeter will the ragù be. The most desirable cut of beef is the neck portion of the chuck. Add salt immediately when sautéing the meat to extract its juices for the subsequent benefit of the sauce. Cook the meat in milk before adding wine and tomatoes to protect it from the acidic bite of the latter. Do not use a demi-glace or other concentrated brown sauces that up [sic] the balance of flavours toward harshness. Use a pot that retains heat. Earthenware is preferred in Bologna and by most cooks in Emilia-Romagna, but enamelled cast-iron or a pot whose heavy bottom is composed of layers of steel alloys are perfectly satisfactory. Cook, uncovered, at the merest simmer, for a long, long time; no less that 3 hours is necessary, more is better.
RECOMMENDED PASTA: There is no more perfect union in all gastronomy than the marriage of Bolognese ragù with homemade Bolognese tagliatelle. Equally classic is lasagne with meat sauce. Ragù is delicious with tortellini, and irreproachable with such boxed, dry pasta as rigatoni, conchiglie or fusilli. Curiously, considering the popularity of the dish in Britain and the countries of the Commonwealth, meat sauce in Bologna is never served over spaghetti.
Put the oil, butter and chopped onion in the pot, turn the heat to medium and sauté the onion until it becomes translucent. Add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the vegetables to coat them well. Add the ground beef, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the beef with a fork, stir well and cook until it has lost its raw, red colour. Add the milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating - about 1/8 teaspoon - of nutmeg and stir. Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all the ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, continue the cooking, adding 125ml/4floz water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt. Toss with cooked, drained pasta and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side.
AHEAD OF TIME NOTE: If you cannot watch the sauce for a 3-4 hour stretch, you can turn off the heat whenever you need to leave, and resume cooking later on, as long as you complete the sauce within the same day. Once done, you can refrigerate the sauce in a tightly sealed container for 3 days, or you can freeze it. Before tossing with pasta, reheat it, letting it simmer for 15 minutes and stirring it once or twice.
|45g (1 1/2 Oz.) shelled walnuts|
|5 tbsp olive oil|
|3 tbsp lemon juice|
|1/2 tsp salt, or to taste|
|4 tbsp vegetable stock, or the water from boiling dried beans or vegetables|
As the text shows, this recipe originates in the Caucasus and East Asia and is described as suiting pulses and fresh vegetables, but I find it makes a great sauce for tagiatelle, especially if made fairly loose, with plenty of stock and lemon juice.
Walnut sauces are commonly eaten in the belt of land thta starts in the Caucasus mountains and goes all the way to Kashmir in northern India. This one is Caucasian and may be used to dress cooked dried beans or many vegetables, such as broccoli. It is rather thick and needs to be thinned out either with the water used for cooking the beans or the water used to cook vegetables. Alternatively, stock or plain water can be used.
To get rid of some of the bitterness in the walnut skins, it is best to blanch them first.
Bring 1 litre (1 1/4 pint) water to the boil. Add the walnuts. Let them boil rapidly for 3 minutes. Drain.
Put the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and stock into a blender.
Crumble the walnuts and add them as well. Blend, pushing down with
a rubber spatula when needed, until you have a smooth
puree. Makes about 250ml(8floz)
|3 ripe tomatoes|
|4 cloves of garlic|
|salt and black pepper to taste|
|50g (2oz) fresh basil leaves|
|125g (4oz) blanched almonds|
|150ml (1/4 pint) olive oil|
There are a wide range of variations on the basic pesto theme. Pesto basically means "pounded", so it can reasonably be used to refer to any sauce made by grinding ingredients in a mortar. This one deviates from the classic Genovese pesto in replacing the cheese with fresh tomatoes, and the pine nuts with almonds.
The book in which I originally found this recipe recommends using it with freshly made olive pasta, but I haven't yet encountered the combination in Italy. Fresh green tagliatelle would be a good match. The recipe recommends the use of a blender, but since this does not involve desecrating the ill-treated Genovese pesto I'm not going to argue.
Grind the lot in a blender until smooth. Any unused sauce will keep
for a week in the fridge - place in a jar with a layer of
olive oil to cover the sauce and drown most of the wildlife.
|1 large red pepper|
|50g (2oz) fresh basil leaves|
|1 clove of garlic, crushed|
|30ml (2 tbsp) toasted pine nuts|
|6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained|
|2 ripe tomatoes, skinned|
|45ml (3 tbsp) tomato puree|
|2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) chilli powder|
|50g (2oz) freshly grated parmiggiano reggiano|
|150ml (1/4 pint) olive oil|
Another variation on the pesto theme, this one using red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes for a richer, sweeter and above all redder version. Ideal with potato gnocchi or the ubiquitous tagliatelle.
This is another "blender" version, but since I'm as idle as the next man - and, indeed, the next three men combined - I'm not going to get fundamentalist about it. It is, as indicated above, not Genovese pesto, is it?
Pine nuts are best toasted in a large frying or saute pan - just drop them in loose and heat on a moderate flame, tossing until they sweat and turn light brown and crunchy.
Place the pepper under a very hot grill, or in the oven on its highest setting, turning occasionally, until well blistered and blackened. Place in a plastic bag or covered bowl and leave to cool until it can be handled. Peel off the skin, halve and seed the pepper, then place in a blender with all other ingredients but the oil. Turn on the blender, preferably removing at least most of the fingers first, then slowly add the oil a la mayonnaise.
As ever, this pesto is tossed into the freshly cooked pasta