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Pasta la Vista, Baby: Whipping Up Vanlife’s Best Pesto

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Vanlife Eatshttps://vanlifeeats.com
Two passionate Vanlife cooks and the creators of Vanlife Eats.

Why Pesto Pasta is a Vanlife Staple

Pesto pasta is a staple for us vanlifers. Why? Because it’s the trifecta of perfection: affordable, simple, and ready in a snap (15 minutes, to be exact). However, there’s a vast difference between a mundane jar of store-bought pesto and a vibrant, homemade version bursting with fresh basil, garlic, and those precious toasted pine nuts. Plus, let’s not forget a generous helping of parmesan and a good glug of peppery olive oil.

Pesto in a jar

The Italian Secret to Perfect Pesto

In Italy, making pesto is almost a sacred art, complete with rules and traditions, including the correct way to use your pestle and mortar. The name ‘pesto’ itself comes from the Italian for ‘pounded’, and in its full glory, it’s known as ‘pesto alla Genovese’, hailing from Genoa. The traditional recipe features a medley of local ingredients: basil (preferably Genovese, kissed by the sea air), Vessalico garlic, top-notch extra-virgin olive oil, parmesan, and Sardinian pecorino.

In the UK, while you might not get your hands on all these specific ingredients without breaking the bank, the key lies in quality. Choose a fine bottle of extra-virgin olive oil, toast your pine nuts to avoid the stale pre-toasted variety, and use only the freshest basil. As for the cheese, go for a blend of two-thirds parmigiano reggiano and one-third pecorino romano – a perfect mix of sweet complexity and sharp saltiness.

To Pound or to Whizz?

When it comes to making pesto, you’ve got two choices: the traditional pestle and mortar or the modern food processor. If you’re not in a rush, try the old-school way. It’s not just about authenticity; there’s something almost meditative about crushing and grinding the ingredients by hand. But, let’s be real, we all love the convenience of a food processor and especially our favourite vanlife gadget the Zyliss manual food processor. Just remember to add your basil later in the process and drizzle in the oil gradually.

pesto in a manual blender
pesto in a blender

Cooking Pesto? No Way!

Here’s a golden rule: never cook your pesto. The magic of pesto lies in its raw, vibrant flavors. Once your pasta is cooked, let it cool for a bit before mixing in the pesto. This keeps the flavors intact without turning your dish into a flavorless mush.

The Perfect Pasta Shape

Now, about pasta shapes. Forget about penne; it’s just too mundane for a sublime sauce like pesto. Instead, look for Ligurian trofie – short, thin, and twisted, perfect for holding onto every bit of that pesto goodness. Can’t find trofie? No worries, try casarecce, strozzapreti, or fusilli – they all do a fine job.

Ligurian trofie pasta

Elevating Pesto Pasta

Pesto and pasta alone are fantastic, but why not jazz it up a bit? A traditional addition is green beans and potatoes, creating a dish known as pasta alla Liguria. This not only adds texture but also a satisfying starchiness. No potatoes? Try white beans like cannellini or butter beans. And if you’re deviating from tradition, frozen peas can be a great substitute for green beans.

The Bottom Line

We have a few pesto pasta recipes and every one is a winner for any vanlife foodie. It’s all about balancing simplicity with quality ingredients. Whether you’re a stickler for tradition or a fan of the food processor, the end goal is a delicious, easy-to-make dish that brings a touch of Italian flair to your vanlife kitchen adventures.

Checkout some of our pesto recipes here

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