OK, so everyone make their own batch of pesto? No? Just jump down to the previous post for the recipe. Don’t feel like it? That’s OK too. You can go ahead and just look at the pictures. I won’t judge.
As a back story to this, you should first know that I have been completely and totally OBSESSED with tomato, basil, mozzarella sandwiches this summer. It’s one of the only recipes of which I will confidently stand up and say that you will find no version better than mine. I’ve tried caprese sandwiches in restaurants and margarita versions in sandwich shops…nope. Mine’s better. It’s better than the version they sell at the Iggy’s stand, even.
Now, it’s a sandwich, so I can’t take credit for it based on my culinary prowess or anything like that. It’s all about the ingredients. For the best sandwich ever, follow these steps exactly. You’ll notice that you’re at a distinct disadvantage if you don’t happen to live in the Boston area.
2). Tomatoes: Fresh farmer’s market tomatoes. In August. The sandwich just doesn’t taste the same in September, and certainly not October. Sigh. I like it equally well with a standard tomato or an heirloom variety. The heirloom will be a little sweeter, the red will impart more traditional Italian flavors. Place two thick slices (about a quarter inch) on your bread.
3). Fresh mozzarella: I strongly recommend Narragansett Creamery for your mozzarella. Don’t get me wrong, I love Fiore di Nonno just as much as everyone else, but Narragansett’s mozzarella is just in a category of it’s own. Get the balls in water if you can — they will be the softest, creamiest mozzarella you’ve ever had. And with that, I just started salivating. Put 2-3 quarter inch slices on top of the tomatoes.
4). Fresh basil: top your mozzarella with 4-6 leaves basil.
5). Dressing: another key. First, drizzle liberally with extra virgin olive oil. I tend to use a basic Filippo Berio — but I’m sure it would be even better if you had a nice expensive gourmet olive oil. Christmas is coming if anyone wants to buy me some ;) Next, drizzle balsamic glaze over the sandwich. I use Blaze and I swear by this stuff. Need to order more as I’m running low after this summer. It’s fantastic on roasted zucchini as well.
6). Sea salt: also key! Any brand will do I suppose, so long as it comes in a grinder. You want the big chunks you get that way. Sometimes I’ll also do a little bit of fresh ground white pepper as well, but that’s completely optional.
If you’re feeling kindly towards your meat-loving significant other, you can also make it with bacon, but that’s really just gilding the lily. Either way, serve with plenty of napkins.
Um. Hungry Crafter? That’s wonderful, and it looks delicious, but… I thought you were going to talk about what I should do with this pesto I just made? Ah yes. I get a little excited when I talk tomato, basil, mozzarella. I needed to do it justice. This is going somewhere, I promise.
Now that you understand the depth of my sandwich obsession, you can understand what it means for me to fiddle with perfection. But fiddle I did! As soon as I made the pesto, I knew there was one thing I had to try right away. Tomato, pesto, mozzarella sandwich. Grilled.
For this sandwich, I simply slathered some pesto on one of the slices of bread, layered on the mozzarella and tomato, and got ready to grill. No need to drizzle with oil, as there’s oil in the pesto; no need for salt, as the parmesan in the pesto provides enough of a bite. No Blaze, either — I wanted to let the pesto flavor shine. I did, however, use a pastry brush to dab some olive oil on the outside of the bread prior to grilling, to ensure a nice golden brown crunch.
The verdict? Sometimes perfection is worth messing with.
OK, so we’ve put pesto on a sandwich, we’ve eaten it on bread for snacks… How about a meal? Simplest thing ever: Boil water. Cook some pasta. Stir in pesto. Send your tastebuds on a trip to heaven.
My only recommendation is to use a pasta shape that will hold the sauce well — think ridges and cupped shapes. See how you get little pockets of pesto with the Farfalle Rotonde? Be sure to pass some grated parmesan at the table as well. There’s no such thing as too much cheese.