1 1/2 basil leaves
1 cup olive oil
1 cup pine nuts (pignoli)
Cracked black pepper
5 cloves garlic
Sliced Coastal English cheddar

Roasted Tomatoes:
Olive Oil
1 pound tomatoes on the vine
Chili flakes
Cracked black pepper

Additional Ingredients:
Mozzarella cheese
Balsamic vinegar

One day I came across the most amazing caprese salad and I knew at once I would make my own version at home. The most beautifully baked tomatoes, still on the vine, were nestled in mozzarella cheese. Making it is easier than one would think.

Take the tomatoes and wash them, but leave them on the vine. I like to use a square brownie baking tin or a loaf tin lined with foil to bake my tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil then sprinkle the tops with chili flakes and fresh ground pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes. Do not leave the tomatoes unattended. Since the stems are staying on you want to make sure the oven isn’t too hot or they will burn. Don’t get me wrong, the stems are pretty crispy by the time they are done but it’s a matter of not filling the house up with smoke!

Let your tomatoes cool before plating. I love pesto, but I don’t particularly care for salt since I find most foods have a natural saltiness to them. This was my motivation to learn how to make pesto sauce. When I started researching it seemed easy enough to try making in my own kitchen. The first batch was a total experiment so I just kept track of what I was using and how much.

One of the key elements to a great pesto is to be certain your basil leaves are totally dry after washing. My sweetie is allergic to parmesan cheese which led me to try the aged English coastal cheddar instead. This particular cheddar is white so it works well as a substitute flavor wise and aesthetically.Simply put all of the ingredients straight into a mixer or blender (but for two or three basil leaves) until it reaches the consistency that looks right. Don’t feel bashful. If your heart desires you can add more of any of the ingredients. I like my pesto with lots of garlic, but you can season yours to taste.

Spoon the pesto onto a plate then use the spoon to draw in a circular motion on the plate from the center moving outward. Place the mozzarella cheese strategically on the plate based on the number of tomatoes you are putting on each dish. The tomatoes go on top. Roll up your basil leaves and cut thinly, then toss on the plate. I always add a bit of extra olive oil on the plate too. Splash with balsamic vinegar and it is done.

You may have leftover pesto. I use mine on pasta or as salad dressing later on in the week.

Are you or a loved one totally vegan?? This recipe easily goes vegan. Leave out the cheese and plate your tomatoes on a cushion of basil instead of mozzarella.

Buon Appetito


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