Homemade Pesto with Ricotta

When I lived in Paris, there was a little restaurant down the road that served the most delicious creamy pesto with their pasta. I later discovered that adding crème fraiche to pesto is a Genoese thing, and it’s absolutely delicious because it mellows the strong flavours of the basil and the garlic. Making your own pesto is so much easier than you might think, and it’s really worth it because all the flavours are fresh and fabulous. For this recipe, I’ve added ricotta rather than crème fraiche for a really luxurious creamy sauce, but you could do either.

A handful of pine nuts
A small handful each of fresh pesto and oregano
A large pinch of coarse sea salt
A drizzle of olive oil
1 small clove of garlic, crushed
A couple of large spoonfuls of ricotta
8 oz of pasta

Serves 2

Start by getting your pasta boiling, because the pesto’s so quick to make you can do it while the pasta cooks. One thing that will really help is a pestle and mortar, but if you haven’t got one, you can improvise with the bottom of a sturdy mug and a ceramic bowl. Pop the pine nuts, fresh herbs (a mixture of basil and oregano makes for a really delicious combination, but you can just use basil if it’s all you’ve got), the garlic, the olive oil and the sea salt into the bowl or the mortar, and crush together into a smooth-ish paste. A quick word on the garlic – don’t be tempted to use too much, because the raw flavour is much stronger than when cooked, so go for a small clove.

When the pasta is ready, drain it but keep a little bit of the cooking water in with it – just a spoonful or two. Add the pesto and the ricotta and stir through. To start with the pesto will clump together but if you give it a good mixing then you’ll end up with a lovely creamy sauce. Serve with a bit of fresh green salad and a cool glass of white wine.