Who says pesto can only be made with basil and pine nuts? Certainly not me! I have been testing different ways of making pesto - using different types of herbs and nuts to see how the flavors changes. I tried this cilantro (or coriander) pesto a couple nights ago and was pleasantly surprised by the result. Cilantro can be a little overpowering at times, so I used a handful of peas in the mixture to soften its taste and it worked well with mild Italian sausage.
The point is.. I might be a bit of a rebel (but certainly not a maverick!) and don't really like following recipes too closely. I do when I bake - doughs can turn out seriously wrong if you don't follow ratios - but when I cook savory foods, I tend to let my imagination go. Pesto is one of those things I tend to have a sudden craving for, so it helps to be able to tweak the original recipe and make it with what I have on hand that day.
Recipe (for 4)
One bunch of cilantro
2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of pine nuts, lightly toasted if possible
1/4 cup of frozen peas, thawed
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground pepper
450 g spaghetti (for 4 people)
2 good quality mild Italian sausages from your Deli
2 tablespoons of bread crumbs
To make the pesto: In a blender place the cilantro, garlic and pine nuts. Pulse. Slowly add the olive oil while blending. Once half of the oil is added, add the peas. Pulse again. Add the lemon juice. Once the mixture is smooth (but still a little chunky) add the Parmesan and pulse again. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Reserve.
Boil the water for the pasta. Salt generously and cook the spaghetti for the indicated time on the package until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, heat a pan to medium high heat with a good drizzle of olive oil. Slice the sausage and add to the hot pan in a single layer. Do not move the sausage for about 3 minutes. Turn on the oven side once the sausage is nicely browned. Add the breadcrumbs to the pan. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Make sure the breadcrumbs are nicely toasted and coat the sausage. Once the sausage is cooked through, remove and place on a paper towel to soak up excess fat.
Once the pasta is cooked, add a small ladle of the pasta water to your reserved pesto to loosen the sauce. Drain the pasta and transfer to the pan with the sausage. Add the sausage, the pesto and mix in. Serve. Enjoy!