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You know how it is: you stagger into the house at six o'clock, you've had a lousy day at work and you really don't feel like creating some stunning culinary extravaganza in the kitchen. All you really want to do is rustle up something quick and chill out in front of the telly with a big glass of wine. I frequently have those kind of days, largely because I'm not particularly fond of cooking and I'm certainly not gifted in the culinary arts, despite an 'O' level in Domestic Science. For me, days like these call for pasta and pesto.
Here is a pared down version of the Chicken Pesto Pasta recipe I used to feed my children to ensure they actually ate some protein. You're probably thinking by now that this review should be under 'Recipes' but please bear with me....
Recipe (if you can call it that):
Pasta (spaghetti or linguine)
Dollop of red pesto
Dollop of crème fraiche
Stir fried peppers and mushrooms (optional)
Boil water, cook pasta, drain pasta, put on dollop of pesto and dollop of crème fraiche. Mix together and consume, preferably accompanied by a large glass of wine of your choice: My own preference is for Valpolicello or Pinot Grigio. It takes only as long to prepare as is needed to boil the water and cook the pasta, it's very simple and it's surprisingly tasty.
Previously when creating this masterpiece I've always used Sacla Red Pesto but just by chance I bought Bertolli Pesto Rosso as it was on special offer in Tesco and I'm so glad I did.
That delightful Italian sauce known as pesto, is a mix of basil, pine nuts, tomato, cheese and oil with a few little extras added in. And it's those little extras that make Bertolli Pesto Rosso stand out.
Tomato Semi Concentrate
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pecorino Romano Cheese
Grana Pedana Cheese
Calorific value: 100g = 389 kcal
Fat: 36.7g (5.5g Saturated Fat)
Price: £2.19 for 185g but currently (as at July 2010) on special offer in Tesco at 2 for £3
It's that last name on the ingredients list, chilli, which makes this pesto stand out from the rest. Coupled with the cheeses, it gives that extra kick of flavour which enhances the pesto and turns a quick and easy meal into something still quick and easy but also especially tasty. I find many commercially manufactured pestos are relatively bland and form more of a background flavour to meals but with this more robust tasting pesto it can take centre stage.
On first opening the jar, it will be necessary to stir in the oil which rises to the surface of the contents. The colour of the pesto is an attractive rich orange-red with tiny flecks of green and deeper red and the consistency is slightly grainy to look at but melts on the tongue. The chilli, of course, isn't immediately tasted and slowly develops to give a warmth rather than heat. The chilli in this pesto gives a subtle kick rather than the smack round the head you get when eating something like pasta arrabiata for instance.
I've already given the recipe for dinner but this pesto is much more than just a one meal ingredient. It's great added to soups and stews for an Italian flavourl and is also delicious spread onto ciabatta with a smear of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of cheese and toasted under the grill to give a passable version of bruschetta.
There is a downside but one that is easily overcome. Like all sauces containing tomato, this pesto stains. And it's the sort of stain which is impossible to remove Even if you stick it in the wash straight away, there is always a little residual mark left behind. So be warned, if eating in a white or light coloured top, wear something protective over your clothing!
I know this pesto has a fairly high fat content but most of that fat is of the healthy unsaturated variety. Also the calorific value given is for 100g which equates roughly to half a jar and as it's unlikely anyone would add that amount to their pasta, this is a fairly low calorie sauce.
This, to my mind, is the best and most delicious red pesto I've ever eaten.
Buon appetito !
Pesto is traditionally basil leaves, pine nuts and parmesan cheese, all mushed together with a drizzle of olive oil to create that green Italian sauce.
So what's in a Pesto Rosso?
If I said tomatoes, would you be surprised?? No, thought not. Kind of a give away, the colour huh.
But what else goes into red pesto differ from brand to brand, which is why the taste differs so much.
In the Bertollio version, it is made from the same ingredients as the traditional green pesto, but with tomatoes added. Not 'sun-dried' but normal tomatoes. And a mixture of Italian cheeses, not just parmesan. Pecarino Romano cheese and Grand Padano cheese to be precise. They also add a hint of cashew nuts, garlic and chilli.
Surprising I have to say. I can't taste the nuts or the chilli, which is a very good thing! I like neither particularly. But I do like this pesto, ten times better than the Sacla brand and the normal pesto.
What do you do with it?
Well, the obvious use would be to stir it into cooked pasta for a fast and tasty sauce. The other suggestion on the jar is to spread it on toasted ciabatta and top with cheese, then toast again. And that's almost what I use this pesto for. Pizza
I'm a frustrating foodie. I like to know what I'm eating. So it's no surprise that I'm prone to making my own pizza. Well, I can make it the thickness I like, and top it as I like, but the issue of the tomato sauce was always a hiccup until I tried this pesto. A thin layer of this pesto between the base and the topping really makes the pizza perfect.
A word of warning though, before you dash to the shops. I've struggled to find it recently. My local Tesco and Waitrose don't seem to stock Bertolli, and Sainsbury's (where I bought it originally) had an empty gap in the pesto shelf.
So, if you find a good stockist, buy a couple of jars and email me the details so I can buy up the rest! Thanks