I spent a glorious morning at our local farmers’ market last weekend, buying everything in sight, carrots, potatoes, garlic, corn, squash, beets. Everything looked gorgeous, freshly-picked and full of life. I especially couldn’t resist the tomatoes, plump, juicy, and vibrant red, cherry tomatoes in various shades and sizes, gnarly striped heirloom tomatoes, ordinary slicing tomatoes, and baskets of plum tomatoes for making sauce. Which is what we are doing today.
It will be a wonderful thing, three to four months from now, to dig into your freezer and pull out a container of home-made tomato sauce. Think of it a building block to great food, and imagine how good it will taste with meatballs, or in a spaghetti sauce, or a soup. You will thank yourself for the effort you make now, and with this recipe, from Sam Sifton at Cooking with the New York Times, it is not much effort at all.
It’s one of the many rituals of summer, like going for ice cream on a warm evening, or eating watermelon at a cottage. When bundles of local basil start appearing, it’s time to gather up the pine nuts, some new garlic and Parmigiano, and your best olive oil, and whizz it all together into a sauce. It’s a simple but wonderful thing.
Classic pesto originated in Liguria, the northern coastal region of Italy that includes the city of Genoa. It is traditionally prepared using a mortar and pestle, as the pounding is believed to bring out the full flavour of the basil. (The word “pesto” comes from the Italian verb pestare, to grind or crush.) It is also traditionally tossed with trenette, a long slender noodle, as well as cooked string beans and sliced small potatoes. This recipe, tweaked slightly from The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Nancy Harmon Jenkins, makes use of a food processor, which suits me just fine. And although her book includes the full recipe for Trenette al Pesto (with pasta, beans and potatoes), I’m giving you just the pesto recipe today.