NotesAlthough we have taken this most popular of sauces to places where it has never gone before, pesto may still be best on pasta.
The food processor makes it very easy to make pesto, but I think it’s well worth making by hand. The slowed-down process of hand grinding the leaves in a mortar lets you see the extraordinary transformation that takes place as garlic, salt, nuts, and basil are worked into a paste, all the while inhaling magnificent scents. If you have a choice at your market, use Genovese (Italian) basil.
Total Timeunder 15 minutes
Make Ahead RecipeYes
One Pot MealYes
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Taste and Texturegarlicky, herby, nutty, savory
Type of DishCondiments
- 1 or 2 plump garlic cloves
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 3 cups loosely packed basil leaves, stems removed, leaves washed and dried
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 2 to 3 tablespoons grated pecorino Romano to taste
- 2 tablespoons soft butter, optional
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
By Hand: Smash the garlic with l/2 teaspoon salt and the pine nuts to break them up, then add the basil leaves a handful at a time. (If you’re impatient, you can speed things up by tearing the leaves into smaller pieces first.) Grind them, using a circular motion, until you have a fairly fine paste with very small flecks of leaves. Briefly work in the cheeses and butter, then stir in the olive oil. Taste for salt.
In a Food Processor: Use the same ingredients but in the following order: Process the garlic, salt, and pine nuts until fairly finely chopped, then add the basil and olive oil. When smooth, add the cheeses and butter and process just to combine.
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1997 Deborah Madison