Traditionally, pesto is tossed with hot pasta or spooned on to classic Italian minestrone, but I’m much more likely to use it as part of my lunchtime repertoire. I love to add it to sandwiches made with cold roast meat, tomatoes and crisp salad leaves. In fact, if I’ve got some really good, fresh white bread, I’m happy to anoint it with a generous slick of pesto and nothing else. It’s also very good as a dressing for lunchbox salads. You could even take some to work to augment hot soup or a plain baked potato from the office canteen.
Classic pesto is, of course, made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan and olive oil – and lovely it is too, especially if you’ve grown the basil yourself and harvested it minutes before blitzing. But the basic notion of pesto – a nutty seed (or seedy nut) pulverised with herbs, hard cheese and richly flavoured oil, is ripe for experimentation and customisation. At River Cottage we’ve had a lot of fun, and a lot of success, inventing pesto variations.
Parsley is my favourite pesto herb, since it is so abundant and easy to grow. They will keep in the fridge for several days, or longer if the surface of the pesto is covered with a thin layer of oil.