I am an Instagram fiend. I blame my niece Claire (aka Melbourne Gastronome) who showed me the app on her phone during a family Christmas lunch a few years back and I haven’t looked back since. Those who know me well including my husband, my friends, my mother and even my boss offer up their plate of food to me to photograph before they take a bite. I have even created an Instagram folder dedicated to lunches with my mother called #lunchwithmammalivia and mamma happily plays hand model for the photos. I was searching Instagram for #capers a few weeks ago and to my great surprise I found a work colleague (who I didn’t even know was into food) on Instagram because he and his wife run Long Lane Capers in the Victorian High Country. I was super impressed because they are super capers, award winning capers in fact.

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These capers are nothing like the little dried out ones you might find in a half empty jar at the back of your fridge that has been there for the last three years. They are plump, juicy, light green little balls of flavour that are hand picked and salted with Murray River salt. These capers should not be used as an after-thought (eg. the pasta salad isn’t salty enough, I might add some capers). If not the star of the dish (such as in the intriguing caper gelato with Malvasia described by Frank Prisinzano on Instagram and on the Sauced blog a few weeks back), they should complement the main ingredient (such as grilled salmon with a lemon and caper butter). I decided to add capers to a pesto with almonds and mint (as my mint plant is threatening to take over the terrace) and toss them through some rigatoni pasta. I added some Parmesan and lemon zest as well. It made a delightfully refreshing pesto with the salty greenness of the capers contrasting the mint and zesty lemon perfectly. You can vary the quantity of mint, capers and Parmesan in the recipe below to taste, though one shouldn’t overpower the other. Experimenting is half the fun! Now that is my kind of fast food.

italy on my mind-caper and minto pesto with rigatoni

Rigatoni with caper, mint and almond pesto

75 – 100g rigatoni pasta per person
1 heaped tablespoon capers, soaked for 15 mins
1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, washed
1/3 cup blanched almonds, roughly chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan
extra-virgin olive oil
crushed black pepper
lemon zest (optional)
reserved capers and baby mint leaves for garnish

Place a big pot of well salted water on the stove and when boiling, add the pasta. Whilst the pasta is cooking, place the mint leaves, drained capers, Parmesan and almonds in a small food processor. Start processing and add a good glug of EVOO until you have the desired consistency. It should be like a thick sauce. Add pepper to taste (you shouldn’t need salt).

Drain the pasta when cooked to your liking, reserving some of the cooking water. Place the drained pasta back in the empty cooking post and stir through the pesto, about a tablespoon per person. Add a bit of the reserved cooking water if it looks dry. Serve on individual plates, with a bit more pesto on top. Add lemon zest to taste if using on individual serving plates and drizzle on extra EVOO if you like. Garnish with extra capers and baby mint leaves.

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