The veg chaps at the market have been selling big bunches of basil all summer with leaves as big as spinach.
So I’ve been making a lot of pesto (very simply parmesan, pine nuts, garlic, basil, olive oil whizzed together) and looking for different ways to use it. This one’s a lovely, light casserole.
The meatballs are optional, but I had some Toulouse sausages I wanted to use and they give excellent flavour to the sauce. I use the sausage ‘meatball’ technique a lot for pasta sausages – slit the skins lengthwise and remove then cut the sausage into four and round them off a bit.
Once they’re done, brown off some chicken thighs. Remove them and in the same pan, sweat an onion, carrot, celery, garlic and mushrooms.
Pour in a slug of white wine or vermouth to loosen any chickeny bits from the bottom of the pan and add a pile of chopped fresh tomatoes and a good couple of dollops of pesto.
Cover this with stock and stir well. This needs at least an hour in a medium/hot oven – about 170 degC. The sauce will thicken a little but stays quite light and fresh thanks to the tomatoes and pesto.
It was lovely with new potatoes and some garden beans.