I think calling pesto a mere sauce doesn’t do justice to its versatility. You could toss it with some pasta, use it as a spread for sandwiches or just dunk some chips in it to make it a dip. Eat it straight out of the jar, anyone? No? Nobody else does that? Well In my head, I also call it the “you’ll thank me later” sauce. Seriously, the number of times this humble combination of ingredients has saved me from mid-week cooking slumps, or helped out with last minute guests is just unbelievable! While I love the classic combination of basil and walnuts, I keep changing up the combination every now and then. The combination I’ve used here – that of arugula or rocket leaves and coriander – is unusual, but every bit as yum as the traditional basil one you are accustomed to.
Apart from swapping the basil leaves with arugula / rocket and cilantro combination, everything else remains the same. Arugula or rocket leaves have a natural peppery flavour and the fresh cilantro or coriander leaves counter that with their earthiness.
For me, the walnuts for a pesto must always be lightly toasted – either in a pan or in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 10 to 15 minutes. Let them cool slightly before you roughly chop them up with a knife. Roughly slice the garlic too, we’re not looking for any precision here. I used the chopper attachment of the KitchenAid Pro Line Series, 5-Speed Cordless Hand Blender to make this pesto. The chopper attachment gives the same sort of rustic look and taste to the pesto that I would have probably got from making this in a traditional pestle and mortar. Give the walnuts and garlic a good whirl in the chopper attachment till they are powder-y in texture.
Tare the arugula and coriander leaves and add them to the bowl of the chopper attachment. Pour in about half of the extra virgin olive oil and blend. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining olive, an extremely tiny pinch of salt and the lemon juice; and this time blend only in a short burst to combine these ingredients.
Now, here’s the pro-tip that’ll take your pesto from good to great… Pour the pesto sauce into a bowl and stir in the grated Parmesan! Stirring-in the Parmesan, I feel, gives the pesto far better texture and flavour. Ever felt your pesto leave an aftertaste of metal? Yes, that’s what blending Parmesan can do to the pesto. Adjust the salt and lemon juice to your taste, and that’s it! This easy pesto is yours to toss with pastas, dot salads, spread on toasts or even as a dip!