Fresh coriander is one of those herbs that you either love it or hate it (like Marmite!). I can’t recall when I first encountered coriander, I just know that I’ve always loved the taste! Here in Spain except for Canary Islands, it’s not very common to use it. In many other places (Brazil and Australia come to mind) it can, in fact, be overused. I remember a few years back a teacher from a culinary school in Australia telling me how it was the new fashion, and chopped coriander was added to almost everything. Moderate use in the right dishes is the key! But to me it’s the “touch” to some recipes…A guacamole without it, is not guacamole to me, or the taste it gives falafel cannot be substituted with anything else. Also, in many dishes of Asian cuisine it’s one of the key ingredients, like fresh rice nems or larp salads.
But the pesto sauce that I’m sharing with you today may seem like an overdose of coriander! Believe me if I tell you that it blends with the other ingredients perfectly and the taste is not at all like coriander on it’s own. Linguini is not a big fan of coriander, but he easily gulps down a plate of pasta dressed with this pesto. Plus, for those of you who do like coriander and often get a bunch for some other recipe…it’s a fantastic way to use up whatever you have left over! (I often do that).
It’s great on it’s own with pasta or roasted vegetables, but one day I put together some ingredients I had in the fridge and this simple pasta dish was born. The taste of the fresh pesto, with a slight tart note (from lemon juice), with the sweet and slightly smoked taste of roasted red peppers and the subtle saltiness from the goat cheese make a wonderful combination with the perfect balance. Super simple, but super tasty and comforting! I hope you enjoy it!
Coriander pesto & a simple yet comforting pasta dish
(For 3 servings)
For the pesto:
30g fresh coriander (stalks removed)
30g roasted cashed nuts (or walnuts or pine nuts)
30g parmesan or grana padano
1 medium clove of garlic (grated or mashed)
70-80g olive oil (I prefer it’s not extra virgin for this dish)
1 tbsp of lemon juice (to taste, I like a bit more)
salt (to taste)
freshly ground black pepper (a pinch)
(a bit of grated lemon rind can be a nice addition, but I suggest you first try without it)
For the pasta:
~300g linguini (100g per person, use more depending on your serving size)
1 large red pepper
about 50g of crumbled goat cheese
extra freshly ground pepper
a drizzle of olive for sautéing the peppers
First, separate the leaves from the large stalk. You could actually use them whole, but the texture won’t result as delicate in the final pesto. If you do remove them…do not throw them away! In Thailand roots are often used and preferred to the leafs as they have a more intense flavour. The stalks also have flavour and chopped up they are great to flavour some dishes. For instance, they make a great addition to a butternut squash and coconut cream, or I use it for the “sofrito” of kedgeree, or a creamy shellfish rice. Furthermore, wrapped in film, they keep much longer than the leaves!
Give them a wash in cold water and dry them up as best as possible. I use the salad spinner…
If your cashew nuts are raw, you should toast them. Place them in the oven a bit over 150ºC and roast for about 15-20 minutes. Bear in mind that if you do, they should be cool by the time you use them. Similarly, if you use pine nuts, as in authentic pesto genovese, toast them either in the oven or in a pan over medium heat on the stove.
Now, easy…put everything but the olive oil in a food processor (the coriander, the parmesan, the nuts, salt & pepper, grated garlic and the lemon juice)
Process a bit, just to integrate everything and add little by little the oil to emulsify the paste instead of all at once to avoid the oil separating from the paste. If you like it runnier, add some more oil. Adjust salt and lemon juice and that’s it!
For the pasta, as simple as roasting the peppers and putting everything together!
To roast the peppers, I like to preheat the oven fairly high, to 220ºC. I place them over some aluminum paper (to wrap them later to make peeling easier, and avoid dirtying the tray!) Drizzle a bit of olive oil and coarse salt and in it goes! No need to turn, no nothing. After about 35 minutes, or a bit more, remove the tray and wrap the peppers in the aluminum paper until cool enough to handle. They should get fairly darkened & blistered all over to develop a sweeter and smoky taste!
The photo below is to show you how the skin should look like (don’t worry that it’s black, that’s why you roast at such a high temperature, so it blackens outside, but remains ok, not mushy inside). You can see the peeled part is still red!
Peel, discard the seeds and slice into thin strips lengthwise.
When your pasta is cooking, you could use the peppers just as they are or sauté them slightly in a bit of oil. Then add, the cooked pasta, the pesto and crumble half of the goat cheese.
Serve with some crumbled cheese over each dish and freshly milled pepper…Buon appetito! (not really Italian, but hey, it sounds great!)