Purple .. pah! Who needs it? Steeled by my recent failure to make a purple pesto, I resolved to work on its elusive cousin, Pesto Rosso. The rosso (red) comes from tomatoes, a commodity not exactly lacking in the vegetable garden at the moment.
The recipe I followed called for semi-dried tomatoes, as opposed to fully sun-dried tomatoes. Semi-dried are more pliant and moist and are very easy to make in the oven. I sliced a variety of fresh tomatoes from the garden – the flavour intensifies as they ‘cook’, so they don’t need to be especially ripe. Laying them out on baking paper, they just needed some rosemary and basil, again freshly picked from just outside the kitchen but dried would be just fine, with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper.
It took a good 2.5 hours in a fan oven at 140C for them to dry just right. There’s still moisture there but as you let them cool afterwards with the oven door open any wetness evaporates.
Eat one before you make the pesto: the taste blows your socks off. They’re chewy, intense, plummy, piquant, sweet and herby all at once. At this point I stared at temptation in the face (and at my socks on the other side of the room), teetering on the brink of eating all the delicious dried tomatoes and forgetting all this pesto nonsense. But the lure of pine nuts, pecorino cheese and more olive oil saw me through and out came the mini blender.
Mix garlic, salt, pine nuts, the semi-dried tomatoes and a fresh chilli: blitz for a minute so that there’s still plenty of texture. Tip into a bowl and add grated pecorino or parmesan and olive oil. Mix with a fork until it’s, well, pesto texture. If you have the ingredients, it’s the easiest thing in the world to make.
Oh my, it tasted divine. As I spooned it into a jar to store in the fridge, I couldn’t help noticing that it’s orange rather than red. You know, I’m just going to relax about this whole colour thing. Things will turn out the colour they want to and if it tastes good, I’m happy. In this case very happy.
I thought I’d be clever by finishing this post claiming to have invented ‘pesto arancione’ (orange pesto). Guess what a quick Google turned up: pesto arancione, made with carrots of all things. This one could run and run… 🙂