I think avocados are one of the foods which will always be synonymous with ‘grown-up food’ for me. They fall into the category of foods which I didn’t like at all as a child, but have grown to love as I’ve got older – along with olives, capers, spaghetti carbonara, and beans (pulses, rather than green beans). Having spurned avocado as a child, I can’t get enough of it these days – on toast for breakfast; in salads; just on its own… Delicious.
I know what you’re thinking – no posts for two months, and she leaps back in with avocados, without so much as a by-your-leave?! (Actually, I don’t think anyone uses the phrase by-your-leave these days, but I like it). It’s true – I have been away from home and from blogging, and I’m sure I’ll tell you about it as we go along. But for now – back to avocados.
Avocado is different from some of the food I didn’t like as a child because it was something I really *wanted* to like. It had a sort of mystery to it, a sophistication – something about it was very grown up, and I was annoyed I didn’t like it. My mother was very strict about food as we were growing up – we were expected to eat what was put in front of us, and she was unimpressed by pickiness. This led to some incidents of spaghetti carbonara-induced misery – but there were also certain foods which she would concede it was reasonable for children not to like, and avocados were one of them.
So, I can remember trying both avocado and olives, disliking them, and being told that perhaps I would like them when I grew up – this immediately made me want to like them, because all any child wants is to be more grown up. I also remember my mother and grandmother eating avocado for lunch – half an avocado each, with vinaigrette in the well in the centre, eaten with a spoon. Something about it was so sophisticated – the same goes for olives at a drinks party. The image in my head is of adults standing around with drinks, eating olives from small dishes – oh to attain the dizzy heights of drinking alcohol and liking olives!! Then I would know I had made it.
I’m not sure what changed, and when I started liking avocado. Maybe it was my discovery of guacamole? Either way, seeing as I could now happily eat avocado every day, that must mean I am VERY grown up…?
This dish is a wonderful way to eat avocado – I had it in a restaurant years ago, and have been recreating it ever since. I don’t often think of avocado as something to eat with warm food, but it works stirred through pasta, especially at this time of year when a bowl of just-warm pasta is both filling, and not too hot. You can adjust the leaves you use in the dish – either adding avocado to a fairly standard pesto genovese base, or replacing some of the basil with, for instance, watercress or rocket, to give a peppery kick to the dish. One thing I would say is to make sure that you include enough avocado – the other flavours in the pesto are strong, and you need enough avocado to make sure its delicious creamy flavour comes through.
I’ve included crispy bacon in this recipe, but if you would rather make this a meat-free dish you can very easily leave it out. If you do use bacon – if you happen to have a bottle of white wine open, add a splash to the pan as the bacon cooks, if you feel so inclined (I did…). You will be left with what Nigella Lawson describes as ‘a small amount of salty winey syrup’ in her spaghetti carbonara recipe, which is truly wonderful with the bacon. You could also add all sorts of other things to the dish instead of (/as well as…) the bacon – halved cherry tomatoes, some sort of cheese – feta, mozzarella or goats’ cheese spring to mind.
Or, of course, it will be delicious just as it comes.
Avocado Pesto Pasta
- 1.5 ripe avocado*
- 30g fresh basil (leaves & stalks) – or a mix of basil and other herbs/leaves
- 1.5 tbsp freshly grated parmesan, plus more to serve
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp pine nuts
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 200g pasta*
- 2 rashers streaky bacon – or pancetta/lardons (optional)
- Splash of white wine (optional)
Start by making the pesto. Peel, de-stone and roughly chop the avocado, and add to the bowl of a food processor along with the basil, parmesan, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil. Process to a rough paste, taste and season with salt and pepper.
Bring a medium pan of salted water to the boil, and cook the pasta according to packet instructions. In the meantime, heat a small frying pan to a fairly high heat, add the bacon, and cook until the bacon starts to crisp. Pour a splash of white wine into the pan and allow the wine to reduce until you have a syrupy glaze.
When the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander – allow some of the cooking water to still cling to the pasta as this will help the sauce and pasta blend. Stir through the pesto and bacon, and serve topped with a grating of fresh parmesan.
- If you have half an avocado left as a result of this, keep the stone in the half you are saving, it will help to stop it going brown.
- I prefer long pasta for this dish – especially linguine. But there’s no reason you couldn’t make this with pasta shapes if that’s what you have and what you prefer.