An enforced hiatus from cooking has struck this household as we embark on a long planned and much discussed kitchen renovation. Like many small food photography operations, both Chew Town and Amanda Michetti Photography is run out of our home full time. A spare room is converted into an office and prop room, while the dining room is flooded with natural light and serves as the studio. We’ve slowly been renovating all parts of the house, and thankfully after cooking in a seriously outdated kitchen for many years, Chew Town is finally getting the modern kitchen it deserves.
With no running water or electricity in our kitchen at present, it is time to get creative. One pot meals have become our daily fare as our portable gas hob bares the brunt of our home cooking efforts. I love the challenge of cooking creative meals with very limited services, so I decided to share one of our recent sans-kitchen meals.
Fresh homemade pesto is a wonderful way to make a quick pasta dish without the added step of making a sauce. The pesto can be made fresh and then stirred through piping hot al dente pasta the moment it is drained. It is quick, easy and absolutely delicious.
In a standard basil pesto you will find basil leaves, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, pine nuts and olive oil. However, I wanted a pesto that was a little more interesting so I’ve made this with baby rocket leaves (called ‘rucola’ in Italian) instead. To combine with the peppery hit of the rocket, I’ve opted for a Pecorino Romano cheese which is a hard sheeps milk cheese with a stronger flavour to Parmigiano-Reggiano. I’ve also chosen almonds instead of pine nuts because I love the almost creaminess that comes from the almonds when blended.
The right choice of pasta is key to enjoying pesto at its best. I like to use a pasta that is folded, rolled or twisted with indentations that can house little pockets of delicious pesto. I have used dried capunti pasta for this recipe, but it would work just as well with orecchiette, casarecce, gemelli or cavatelli. Also, when making pesto you want it to coat the pasta, not drown it in olive oil. It is better to add a little olive oil to the pasta later than to make a pesto with a thick layer of oil glistening on top. When you buy jars of store bought pesto, the extra oil is there to help preserve it in the jar on the shelf, but homemade pesto is best enjoyed quickly after it is made so the extra oil isn’t needed. Homemade pesto is a world away from store bought and if you haven’t tried to make your own, you don’t know what you are missing!
Rocket Almond Pesto Pasta
- 50g baby rocket leaves
- 35g blanched slivered almonds
- 35g pecorino Romano cheese, grated
- 100ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove
- Pinch salt
- 500g packet dried capunti pasta
- Additional 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Handful rocket leaves
- Chopped toasted almonds
- Pecorino-Romano cheese, grated
Combine rocket, almonds, garlic and grated pecorino cheese in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until well combined, then with the food processor on low, slowly pour 100ml olive oil down the spout in one steady stream. Scrape down the sides and pulse again until completely combined. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the dried pasta and cook according to the time stated on the packet or until the pasta is al dente (with a little resistance when bitten). Drain the water from the pasta and put the pasta back in the pot. Add all the pesto and the additional 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss until the pasta is completely coated. Taste and then season with salt and pepper and toss again.
Divide between 4-6 bowls and serve topped with fresh baby rocket leaves, grated pecorino, chopped toasted almonds and a drizzle of olive oil if desired.