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Pesto sauce

While it’s one of my favourite pasta sauces, I hadn’t yet made pesto for Nicholas. I generally have it out of a jar, but I’m still rather anal about giving Nicholas ready-made food of any description, so I needed to make it from scratch.

It’s really not that difficult (it’s just blending the ingredients) and by making it, you can adjust the amount of cheese, the amount of oil and so on to your munchkin’s and your taste.

pesto sauce

Traditionally you should use a mortar and pestle to gently crush and mix the ingredients together, not rip the delicate basil leaves apart with the sharp metallic blades of a food processor. I use a mini food processor (don’t tell anyone).

I’ve read tips including to use a plastic blade in your food processor, and putting the bowl and blade in the fridge beforehand to cool down (you don’t want the blades to be heating up the sauce as you’re making it). The only tip I do follow is to blend on a slow speed and to use the pulse button rather than let the blades continuously spin (again it’s trying to avoid heating up the sauce).

Many traditional Italian recipes for pesto use some grated pecorino as well as parmesan. If I was making this just for adults, I’d substitute 2 tablespoons of the parmesan with pecorino, but as pecorino is a much saltier cheese, I’ve left it out altogether. I also haven’t used any salt in this child-friendly version; you could add a pinch with the garlic if you wanted.

PESTO SAUCE

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 0 mins
Makes 4 adult servings
Keeps in the fridge for a couple of days (cover with a layer of olive oil)

1 clove of garlic
50g fresh basil leaves, washed and completely dry
1 tbsp pine nuts
6 tbsp grated parmesan
100ml extra virgin olive oil

In a small food processor, blend the clove of garlic until it’s creamy.

Add the basil leaves and process until the leaves are fairly evenly broken up.

Add the pine nuts then the parmesan, 1 spoonful at a time.

Slowly pour in the oil and blend until completely combined and creamy.

Variations:

  • walnuts are a traditional substitute for pine nuts, but you do need to skin them otherwise the sauce will be very bitter
  • substitute 2 tablespoons of the parmesan with grated pecorino if serving to adults

Other uses:

  • serve over a baked potato
  • use as a dip for vegetables

Seeing the pesto-covered farfalle pasta has given me an idea for another Christmas-inspired cute lunch, but you’re going to have to wait till tomorrow to see that!

Mini carbonara

As an Italian living abroad my husband has two recurring food grumbles. I think you can probably easily guess one of them. Yes, it’s coffee! I can’t really say too much about this as I was a bit of a coffee snob before living in Italy, so ended up being an even bigger one, and it tends to be me more than hubby turning up my nose at things like Nespresso pods. However, I do love his child-like optimism and hopefulness when trying coffee in a new place and patiently explaining to the waiter it’s not necessary to fill the little cup right up (while I’m pessimistic and opt for tea!).

His other grumble, about which our friends have endured many a lengthy conversation, is carbonara. He can talk for ages about his disgust at what passes for carbonara in many restaurants outside Italy, his disbelief at the additions people make to it, and the right way of making it. I love his passion for his culture, and for this reason I’ve never admitted making ‘carbonara’ during my university days from a recipe using evaporated milk, for fear of divorce!

Making a carbonara for Nicholas, hubby was happy to be a little bit more flexible. His less salty toddler version uses prosciutto (parma ham) instead of pancetta or guanciale and parmigiano (parmesan) rather than the saltier pecorino. He used a quail’s egg simply for its smaller size, but you could also beat up an egg and use half the mixture instead. Hubby would approve of that 😉

The most important thing when preparing any kind of carbonara is to have the sauce ingredients ready once the pasta is cooked, so you can drain the pasta and immediately mix through the sauce.

Enjoy this authentically Italian toddler version of a famous pasta recipe!

MINI CARBONARA

Prep time: 5-10 mins
Cook time: about 15 mins depending on which type of pasta you cook
Makes 1 toddler serving

1 slice prosciutto (Parma ham), cut into small pieces
drizzle of olive oil
30g pasta
1 quail egg, lightly beaten (or 1/2 beaten egg)
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp parmigiano (parmesan)

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a small frying pan and cook the prosciutto over a med-high heat until crispy. Take off the heat and leave.

Cook pasta as directed on the packet, but without adding salt to the water.

As the pasta is cooking, put the beaten quail egg into a bowl big enough to add and mix the pasta in. Add a pinch of pepper and the parmigiano to the egg and mix well.

As soon as the pasta is cooked, quickly drain it (keeping a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water) and put it in with the egg mixture. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat the pasta. Put it into the frying pan with the crispy prosciutto and stir constantly over a medium heat until the egg is just cooked (1-2 mins), adding a little of the reserved cooking water from the pasta if it seems to be getting too dry (you want a lovely creamy consistency to the sauce).

Serve and blow on it so you can eat it as soon as possible.

Variations: none!