Pesto Hasselback Potatoes

Hasselback Potato with Red Pesto

We're suckers for any recipe that takes a humble ingredient and turns it into something extraordinary, and that's why pesto-stuffed hasselback potatoes are right up our street.

We'll never stop cooking regular roast potatoes, using Delia's seminal technique of roughing up the edges, but whenever we're entertaining, these spuds add a little bit of theatre to the table, which wins our guests over every time.

Pro tip
Using wooden skewers rather than metal ones will ensure less stress on your super-expensive, razor-sharp chefs' knife.

The reason this is something of a "no recipe recipe" is because when using this technique, it's best to just eyeball it and trust your intuition about how much of each ingredient to use.

Potatoes* as needed
Unsalted butter as needed
Pesto as needed
Cheddar as needed

* The jury's out on the best kind of potato for this recipe, but the truth is, you can hasselback (is that a verb?) any kind of spud. We've had success with starchy, waxy, new, sweet, and every potato in-between.

Just like your choice of spud, there's a plethora of ways to make a hasselback potato. Through our numerous tests, we've found that the combination of three different techniques is the ultimate way to guarantee perfect results every time.

The first thing to do is find the flattest side of your potato and cut off about a centimetre of it so that it sits flat on a chopping board.

Next, take two skewers and run them down the length of the potato about a centimetre up from the board.

Now take your knife and make thin cuts along the potato (around 3mm apart for any obsessives out there), stopping each time your knife hits the skewers. When you've made all your cuts, remove the skewers, saving one of them to test the doneness of your creation later.

You should now be able to gently fan out the potato. If it gives too much resistance, then you're just going to have to resort to the most heinous of bibliophilic crimes, one our school librarian would turn in her grave over, which is to apply enough pressure to effectively "break the spine" without completely severing the potato from itself.

The next step is what we modestly think is a stroke of genius. We stuff little cubes of Cheddar (about the size of a pea) in the middle of each gap, pushing down towards the centre so they stay put. Not only will this keep your spud fully fanned during the early stages of cooking, but it will eventually melt, leaving some gooey, molten cheese in the centre of your potato for an added hit of flavour.

Next, baste your potato liberally with melted butter and bake, uncovered, in a pre-heated 180°C fan oven until the insides start to get soft and fluffy and the skin gets crispy. This will take anywhere from 40-60 minutes, depending on the size of your potato and the accuracy of your oven. Baste every 10 minutes or so with more butter for the best results.

Remove your potato from the oven and spread a layer of pesto in each cut before returning to the oven for a final 5 minute blast.

Sprinkle with sea salt flakes, chives, and Parmesan, and devour immediately.