Pasta with homemade pesto and cherry tomatoes

I’m back to Beirut, but my heart is still in Toscana! I close my eyes and I see the flowing hills of vineyards. We were in the countryside and Gosh what a charming place. Captivating! I know that I’ll be back to visit again.

Meanwhile, this week I’m indulging myself with a lot of Italian food inspired from my trip.

Winter will come soon and freeze my basil plants, so I decided to pick the leaves off to make homemade pesto sauce.

Making your own pesto might sound extravagant, but in fact it’s super easy and will sure make you win your friends impression. If you like, it can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the fridge, just make sure that it has a decent layer of olive oil on the surface to make it last for longer period of time. Pesto is not only tasty with spaghetti, but is brilliantly combined to Turkey Panini or grilled Chicken and many other dishes.

I enjoy more making the pesto myself when I know that the basil leaves have been freshly picked in my garden, the pine nuts are sourced from my mother-in-law –they have 20,000sqm of pine nuts trees around their house in Baskinta– the olive oil is from the south of Lebanon –39% of the regional distribution of olive groves in Lebanon comes from the South– and the Pecorino cheese is also homemade, a gift from Alessio, Serge’s Italian friend. He taught me to use half Parmesan and half Pecorino cheese in Pesto sauces. The outcome is fabulous! Grazie Signor:)

 

Ingredients

  • Spaghetti #7
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 400g cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Basil to decorate
  • Sea Salt

For the Pesto

  • 50g Fresh Basil (or 2 big handfuls of fresh basil), chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1tbsp pine nuts
  • 6tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt and Pepper
  • 25g Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated

Cooking Directions

  1. To make the pesto, in a food processor blend basil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan around 30 seconds or until you have a smooth paste (Though, if you like it coarse, using your food processor click the pulse button very quickly maybe once or twice). Add the olive oil to the mixture and season to taste with salt and pepper. If you don’t have a food processor you can use a mortar and a pestle.
  2. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil and cook the pasta as instructed on the pack. You may like to add a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of oregano in the water.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Cook over a medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally until tomatoes are soft and beginning to char.
  4. Drain the pasta. Add pesto sauce to taste (you might not choose to put all the prepared sauce), drizzle little olive oil and mix. Add tomatoes.
  5. Serve the pasta decorated with fresh basil leaves and more fresh shaved Parmesan.
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Italian Bruschetta

Italians have taste! They mastered Fashion, Art and Food. From the smallest bruschetta to a large sea-food risotto, they’ve got cooking skills in their genes.

Pizza, pasta, pesto, parmigiano, ricotta, mozzarella, tiramisu, panna cotta, … Is there anything I can name that is not delicious?! I find their menu extraordinary. Simply mouthwatering!

Bruschetta (pronounced “brusketta”) is an Italian appetizer to enjoy at any time of the day or to make a delicious starter for your dinner. It consists of roasted bread “pane bruscato” rubbed with garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt. We Lebanese are lucky to have one of the finest olive oil in the world, because bruschetta will taste best when using good quality of oil.

The original recipe of bruschetta has been customized around the world, and the most popular includes tomatoes and fresh basil. The freshness and perfect taste of this meal will make your guests gobble it all up and keep on asking for more.

Choose a French or Italian bread, as long as it’s moist and fresh. I prefer thyme bread for a more accentuated flavor.

These are my 2 favorite toppings. They are both prepared the same way: For the first I added basil, olives and tomatoes, and for the second I added thyme, feta and tomatoes. I wasn’t sure if I should give you the exact amounts, because it’s all a matter of taste. So please feel free to put more or less of any of the ingredients. Come on!

Italian Olive Bruschetta

  • 1/2 baguette (French bread) or 6 slices of sourdough bread, toasted and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, unpeeled and halved
  • 2 large tomatoes or 16 cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • Few sprigs of fresh basil, leaves picked and roughly chopped, smaller leaves reserved
  • 4 tbsp black or green olives, pitted and sliced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste

Feta and Thyme Bruschetta

  • 1/2 baguette (French bread) or 6 slices of sourdough bread, toasted and sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, unpeeled and halved
  • 2 large tomatoes or 16 cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • Few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked and washed
  • 50g Feta cheese, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste

 Preparation

  1. Rub each piece of bread with garlic. Place on a cookie sheet and bake on the top rack of the oven until the bread turns slightly brown. (I personally sometimes toast my slices in a toaster to save time and it still works like a charm)
  2. In a salad bowl, mix all ingredients together, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
  3. Align the bread on a platter, garlic side up. With a spoon, place carefully the mixture on each slice and serve.