Savoury pancakes with pesto
Prep 40 mins
Cook 5 mins
“Testaroli are typical of ‘cucina povera’, or the food of the poor, and are considered the ancestors of modern pasta,” says restaurateur Lucio Galletto. “This ancient dish originated in Lunigiana, a former territory taking in parts of Tuscany, Liguria and Emilia Romagna, between the sea and the mountains. Testaroli are traditionally prepared in cast-iron containers called “testi”, from which they take their name. The home cook can of course use a cast-iron or heavy-based frypan. Basically it is made like a pancake. Then it is allowed to cool, usually cut into diamond shapes (here triangles) and quickly boiled, drained and dressed with pesto or simply parmesan and extra-virgin olive oil (Ligurian of course). As with many Italian dishes, simple is best. The quantities for the pesto are all approximate. If you need or want more of anything, just add it in!”
500g plain four, sieved
2½ tsp salt
Olive oil, for frying
1 large garlic clove, peeled
Pinch of sea salt
3 handfuls of small basil leaves, carefully washed and dried
1½ tbsp pine nuts
¼ cup finely grated parmesan
1½ tbsp finely grated mild Sardinian pecorino
150 ml extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
1. Combine flour, egg, and salt in a bowl, add 600ml water and whisk until a lump free batter.
2. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add a tsp of oil to pan to just coat the base, then once hot, add a ladleful of batter into the pan and tilt pan until batter is 5mm-thick, then cook, turning once until each side is set and surface of the testaroli is charred (5 minutes on each side). Repeat until all the batter is used. The number of pancakes you make will depend on your pan size. Set pancakes aside to cool, then cut into rough diamond or triangular shapes of 4-5 cm.
3. For pesto, crush garlic with a pinch of salt in a large mortar and pestle (or in batches) to a paste, add basil gradually while crushing with the pestle, pressing the pestle around the sides in a rotary motion so the ingredients meld smoothly together. Once the basil has broken down and released its oils, add pine nuts and cheeses and keep pounding until everything is blended to a thick paste. Transfer to a larger bowl and add the oil, mixing with a wooden spoon until well combined. When you are ready to use the pesto add a touch of the pasta cooking water to the pesto and stir to emulsify and create a creamy texture.
4. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add testaroli and cook as you would fresh pasta (1-2 minutes), then drain and dress with pesto and sprinkle with some grated parmesan cheese.
N O T E
For pesto, if using a blender, place all ingredients in and process on the lowest speed with intermittent pulsing until the sauce is creamy. If you are not using the pesto immediately, pour a layer of olive oil on top to prevent discolouration.
Recipe by Lucio Galletto and image by Eatable.