Every time I eat linguine or spaghetti with a basic basil pesto, I feel very Italian – in a “pretend” kind of way. It is the opposite of what we grew up on in South Africa, believing that pasta always needs a chunky, heavy meat sauce. This simple way of enjoying pasta is synonymous with my motto for the new year, keeping things uncomplicated, yet robust. The most basic meal can turn into something fabulous if you use fresh, great quality ingredients, and do as little to it as possible.For this recipe, I varied from the well-known classic basil pesto with the use of cashew nuts instead of pine kernels – a slightly more economical choice which means that you don’t have to use the nuts too sparingly and can add some as a final topping for extra texture.
Cashews still provide a strong nutty flavour, and is in no way a compromise. I also added some fresh, halved cherry tomatoes, which I tossed through the pasta while it was still piping hot. The tomatoes warm up slightly, but retain their fresh crunch and flavour.As a last addition, I also added some fior di latte – wonderfully mild and milky pieces that work so well in the traditional caprese salad of tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. This dish makes me feel rejuvenated, inspired and longing for travels abroad. Buon appetito!
Ingredients for the pesto:
- 2 punnets basil
- a pinch of salt and pepper
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese (preferably parmigiano reggiano)
- 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil (best quality)
- 50 g cashew nuts
Ingredients for the pasta:
- 500 g linguine (plus water and salt for boiling)
- 30 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 250 g rosa/cherry tomatoes, halved
- 120 g fior di latte, torn into shreds
- 50 g cashew nuts, roughly chopped
Step 1In a food processor or electric chopper (or manual pestle & mortar), process/pound all ingredients for pesto together to a chunky paste. Set aside and start making pasta immediately, otherwise discolouration might occur.
Step 2Bring a large pot of salted boiling water to the boil, then cook pasta for 7 minutes or until al dente. Drain in a colander and immediately add olive oil, then toss to coat. Transfer to a large bowl.
Step 3Add pesto, then toss to coat well.
Step 4Now add tomatoes, mozzarella and cashews. Toss again, then serve immediately with some extra olive oil on the table.