Monday, 9 July 2012

Pasta with Lemon Balm Pesto

A caring friend recently brought me a present back from Rome.  It was a packet of the most garishly coloured pasta I have ever seen.  At its heart it is durum wheat farfalle but it has been coloured in candy stripes with tomato, red peppers, spinach, beetroot and blueberries.  There is no way that I could make a standard pasta sauce like bolognese with pasta like this, so it was kept in a cupboard until a suitable occasion.

Then, last week, out of the blue, I spotted something on my way home from work.  At first I thought it was a large and unwieldy mint plant that had propagated itself on a road side verge, but on closer inspection it was Lemon Balm.  Making a mental note of it's location I returned home to ask the oracle (twitter) if anybody had any culinary uses for this citrusy member of the mint family.  What I got back was mentions of tea and cordial but nothing that got my juices flowing.  I then did what most people of my generation do, I googled lemon balm.

I should have known that what I would get back was references to tea and cordial.  In despiration I even looked at the wikipedia entry for lemon balm where this line "It can be used in fish dishes and is the key ingredient in lemon balm pesto" caught my eye.  As you can see there is no link to a recipe but my mind was made up, pesto it was.

A large bunch of lemon balm, picked on my way home from work, was blended with a clove of garlic, a handful of toasted pine nuts, a handful of pecorino and plenty of olive oil and to back up the citrus, a squeeze of lemon juice.  The pesto was simply stired through the cooked pasta and served.  The lemon flavour is really subtle in lemon balm, it is almost in the air around the leaves and not in the leaves themselves so the extra lemon juice was a good idea. 

With the right kit you could easily make this in the time it takes to cook the pasta for a really fast and very healthy evening meal.  With a good knife or mezzeluna it might take a little while longer but the results would still be worth the effort, you don't even need psychedelic pasta, but if you've got some, it makes for an attractive meal.

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