Recipe: Roberta's classic pesto alla Genovese with handmade tagliatelle
“The key to making an excellent pesto alla Genovese is in selecting your basil. Try to get bunches with smaller leaves as these tend to be fresher and more tender.” Roberta d’Elia - Head Chef at Pasta Evangelists
For the tagliatelle
- 400g flour
- 4 eggs
For the pesto sauce
- 4 cups basil, cleaned and chopped
- 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
- 2 tablespoon of Pecorino
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Salt to taste
- Start by making your dough. On a clean marble or wooden work surface, pile your flour into a mound. Make a well in the centre of the mound and crack the eggs into the well - make sure the mound is large enough or the eggs will spill over.
- Beat the egg mixture with the fork, slowly pulling the flour from the sides of the well until the egg has all been absorbed by the flour. As the mixture thickens, start using your hands.If your dough is a little dry then wet your hand and continue mixing until you have a ball.
- Next, you need to knead the dough. Clean the surface of any excess dough bits before lightly flouring it. Knead by pressing the heel of one hand into the ball and, keeping your fingers high, press down on the dough while pushing it firmly away from you. The dough should stretch under your hand to create a shell-like shape. Turn the dough over, then press into the dough with your knuckles, one hand at a time. This process should be carried out around 10 times.
- Roll the dough back into a ball and repeat the stretching and knuckling process, using more flour if needed to prevent any stickiness. Repeat the process for about 10-20 minutes until the dough is smooth and silky.
- Roll the dough into a smooth ball, then place the dough in a small bowl and cover with a cloth or plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.
- While your dough is resting, it’s time to make your pesto. Start by gently toasting the pine nuts in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat until they turn slightly brown in colour and are fragrant. Keep them moving to prevent burning. In the case that any get dark brown, be sure to remove them before adding to the basil as they will impart a burnt flavour to the pesto.
- Put the basil, grated Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino, minced garlic clove and 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil to a pestle and mortar (or food processor) and grind until creamy.
- Add the pine nuts and grind until they start to break down and combine with the oil and basil mixture. You should have a creamy yet slightly chunky consistency. Drizzle the remaining olive oil and continue to grind until you have a creamy paste.
- Now your pesto is ready, you can roll and cut your pasta.
- Lightly flour your surface before rolling the dough with a rolling pin, starting in the centre and rolling away from you to the outer edge.
- Turn the dough a quarter-turn, and repeat, working your way around, until the sheet of dough is 1/8 inch thin or less. Scatter a small amount of flour on the dough whenever it starts to stick to the surface or the rolling pin. In Italy, we say the sheet of dough should be transparent enough to read the text beneath!
- Place dough, now called a sfoglia, onto a clean and lightly floured work surface. Roll it itself a few times carefully, ensuring there is enough flour so it doesn't stick. Trim the end edges to be even, then cut into approximately 6mm wide strips.
- Gently lift the pasta strips in the air and place them carefully onto a dishtowel, make sure they are separated. Repeat with the remaining sheets of dough.
- At this point, you are ready to cook your pasta. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add a generous amount of salt, before cooking the pasta for 3-4 minutes, or until al dente.
- Strain the pasta, reserving a little cooking water, which you should mix in with your pesto sauce - the starch and salt in the pasta water lends flavour and make the pesto extra creamy!
- To serve, simply toss tagliatelle with the pesto before topping with an obligatory helping of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano!
See the products below for Roberta D'Elia's W&B picks for your pasta:
"Pasta is served only and exclusively in a Pasta Bowl - Il piatto per la pasta!" – Dede Johnston Bowl
"These tools are also linked to a truly Italian tradition. If you have a son close to getting married, the mother "future mother-in-law" has to give a full service of pots, it works a bit like a dowry and therefore every Italian family has one!" – Online Platine Set
As part of this collaboration, Pasta Evangelists have offered 20% off on their site, simply use code WANDB20 on their checkout.