A Duet of Pesto : Rucola Pesto and Red Pesto Recipe

Duo de Pesto

[A Duet of Pesto : Rucola Pesto and Red Pesto]

On Saturday night, my dear friends Marie-Laure and Laurence and their respective (and dear, too) boyfriends Ludo and Jean-Christophe came over for dinner. This had been decided just the day before, so Saturday morning saw me sitting on the couch, surrounded by cookbooks, perusing them for inspiration. In passing, I have plans to create an exercice video which I will simply call “The Cookbook Workout” : I’m certain I burn an insane number of calories just lugging those piles of cookbooks around, from shelf to couch to counter, and back to shelf.

I decided to keep things simple, and skip the first course, replacing it with a little something to eat with the apéritif (pre-dinner drink). I like doing things that way, because it’s a friendly, laid-back way to start the meal, and I like the dynamics it creates, allowing people to hover around the bar and mingle. I also like to welcome my friends with something homemade : they’re probably hungry, and what you eat on an empty stomach is what you appreciate best, so it might as well be something I’ve lovingly prepared, no?

The idea of making pesto variations had been on my mind for a while : you start from the basic pesto recipe (basil, pinenuts, pecorino and/or parmesan cheese, olive oil and garlic), and work from there, replacing some of the ingredients by their cousins, be they close or removed — another kind of herb, another kind of nut, another kind of cheese. In this instance, I made two variations : I made a green rucola pesto, subbing rucola leaves (a.k.a. arugula) for the basil, and I used sundried tomatoes to make a red pesto.

I served both in their little jars, with a basket of thin ciabatta slices and two knives : each of us could prepare his own little canapés, putting as little or as much of the pesto of his choice as suited his taste. In truth I ended up doing most of the spreading while we chatted, but that’s just because I enjoy those things. And you know, these boys get so engrossed in conversation that they’ll starve if you’re not careful.

I will most definitely do this again : it is colorful and tasty, it is incredibly easy to make, and it gives me the perfect excuse to buy a big and beautiful granite mortar and pestle! You can prepare the pestos ahead, and keep them on hand for an improvized mini-meal. The pestos can also be used like regular pesto of course, in pasta, as a sandwich spread, as a salad dressing…

Pesto de Roquette

– 2 large handfuls of rucola, rinsed and dried
– 3 Tbsp pinenuts
– 3 Tbsp parmesan
– 3 Tbsp olive oil
– 2 garlic cloves, peeled

Combine all ingredients in mortar (preferably) or a food processor. Pestle or mix until smooth. Try a bit, and add more of any of the ingredients to suit your taste.

Pesto Rouge

– 8 pieces of sundried tomato (packed dry — reduce olive oil by one Tbsp if using packed in oil)
– 3 Tbsp pinenuts
– 3 Tbsp parmesan
– 3 Tbsp olive oil
– 2 garlic cloves, peeled

Combine all ingredients in mortar (preferably) or a food processor. Pestle or mix until smooth. Try a bit, and add more of any of the ingredients to suit your taste.

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