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August 8, 2014 4:45 pm
I run into trouble when I pontificate about the food in Liguria. My friend Ruthie Rogers also fell foul of a reader of this paper from that region, for daring to recommend Puglian olive oil, pine nuts from Pisa and very possibly pecorino from Sardinia in her recipe for pesto. The same reader gave me a roasting for calling the spiny lobster in Puglia a cigala, which was probably incorrect, but I was only reporting what the chef in the restaurant called it.
Scroll down for method and ingredients
Serves six to eight
So, Liguria: let us tread very carefully here. I will tentatively allege that the really classic pasta with pesto is trofie, hand-rolled little missiles an inch long, fat in the middle and with little trailing tails at each end. They are laborious to make, but I have done so after a couple of hours’ brilliant tuition from Alberico Penati and his brilliant sous chef some years ago in Harry’s Bar. I met the sous chef, Luigi, now in private service, relaxing in the bar at Toto’s, a rather stylish old Chelsea haunt now in the assured hands of the old master of Le Gavroche, Silvano Giraldin.
There was another reminder of Luigi on the menu, in the form of cavatelli al pesto. I was intrigued and had to have it. It was very similar to Luigi’s preparation, the supple pasta tossed with some diced potato and inch lengths of French beans, the whole enrobed in some pungent and verdant pesto. But what was this cavatelli all about? They formed little ribbed, hollow lozenges that collected every drop of sauce. I enquired how they were made and was taken into the kitchen and shown the little machine. Several of the Italian chefs enthused and told me the contraption was easy to get from a certain large online retailer.
The trouble is, cavatelli is not Ligurian. It comes from the opposite end of Italy, in Puglia. This shocking solecism was committed by a bunch of Italians in Knightsbridge. I suppose this is not the best time to remind anyone that there is an awful lot of pesto over the border, not in Liguria, not even in Italy, and there they call it pistou.
If you don’t have the machine – and why should you? – but still want to make your own pasta, trofie are the best bet. With the same dough in the same flattened cylinders, simply cut it into little logs and then shape each one between the two bifurcated forefingers to produce little torpedoes. Serves six to eight.
|1 tbs||pine kernels|
|1 tbs||finely grated Parmesan cheese|
|Large handful||basil leaves|
|100ml||good olive oil|
A good Vermentino is probably the vin de pays.
Photograph: Andy Sewell
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