Quick and Simple Pasta Pronto!
Swiss Chard and Walnut Pesto Recipe
Pasta, that easy to prepare mid-week meal, or a weekend indulgence with wine and maybe half an acre of garlic bread – it comes in many guises and it’s astonishing to think that we only really embraced this “foreign” ingredient about forty to forty-five years ago. Many an Italian wine bar during the 1960’s made its fortune from bowls of spaghetti Bolognese with a bottle of Chianti – and after the wine was finished, the straw clad bottle became an iconic candle holder! And, do you remember the Great Spaghetti Harvest spoof? It was before I was born, but I have seen the film footage many times – it was an April Fools Day prank as broadcast by BBC’s Panorama programme in 1957, and remains the BIGGEST spoofs in television history! The hoax Panorama programme, narrated by distinguished broadcaster Richard Dimbleby, featured a family from Ticino in Switzerland carrying out their annual spaghetti harvest…….It showed women carefully plucking strands of spaghetti from a tree and laying them in the sun to dry, and my parents told me that it fooled thousands of viewers! You can still see the programme on YouTube here: Panorama – April Fool’s Day Hoax – Spaghetti Harvest – 1st April 1957.
It was probably easy to fool a post-war Britain, where pasta was almost unheard of and “meat with two veg” was the most popular fare, as served at the British supper table; it is a wonderful reminder of a simpler and more innocent time, where olive oil was bought at Boots the Chemist and tea, not wine, was drunk with dinner or supper! I remember going to school in the 1970′ and telling my friends that mum had cooked “Lasagne” for tea, a dish that had never been heard of at that time in deepest Cornwall; it appeared that my mum was very “risque” and right up to current food trends even then, and I had to give my friends a blow-by-blow account of what it consisted of, and how she made it! (All that pre-cooking of huge sheets of pasta, no pre-cooked lasagne sheets in those days) The next trend to hit British shores was Pesto – and I remember the first meal where Pesto Pasta was on the menu, I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I tasted it! It was in a little Café Bistro in Hereford, not a Chianti bottle in sight, and a HUGE plain white bowl appeared with home-made pasta with the most divine sauce I had ever tasted…….needless to say I was a convert.
The classic Genovese pesto is made with blanched basil leaves, pine nuts, olive oil, Pecorino and Parmesan cheeses as well as the ubiquitous garlic. Pesto comes in all guises now, there’s sun-dried tomato pesto, mint pesto, as well as a Calabrian pesto made with bell peppers and lots of black pepper. The name “pesto” means to pound or crush in the local Genoese dialect, and has been adopted as a generic name for all types of this style sauce nowadays. My pesto has NO herbs in it at all and it is a veritable vegetable delight! It tastes divine, take my word for it, and makes good use of that “veg box” favourite, Swiss chard. I used my own home-grown walnuts for the “nut element” and a mixture of Grana Padano and Parmesan cheese. I added a good swig of extra virgin olive oil and a goodly amount of fresh garlic and I was very pleased with the results. I served this with some “squid ink” pasta, and some extra pan-fried chard for a delightful luncheon dish the other day.
As this pasta meal was made with my home-made pesto, I am entering it in to Jac’s Pasta Please challenge which this month is being hosted by Jen and where the theme is……….Home-made Pesto! I plan to make this pesto again, as it was truly delicious and I added the rest to a vegetable soup the next day, which worked brilliantly. If squid ink pasta is not your thing, then of course you can use this Swiss Chard and Walnut Pesto with any pasta of your choice, and I am planning to use it as the sauce on home-made pizza next time I make one……with some prawns or calamari maybe. That’s all for now, see you later with a new fish recipe, and some classic baking recipes too. Not long to the weekend now, and don’t forget that it’s Easter next week – it’s very early this year. I hope you enjoy this pesto sauce if you make it, bye for now, Karen