How to Make Pesto
Pesto (pronounced PEH-stoh) is an uncooked sauce made with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts,
Parmesan and/or pecorino cheese and olive oil. The ingredients can either be crushed with a mortar
and pestle or finely chopped with a food processor. Pesto is never cooked or heated. This classic,
fresh-tasting sauce originated in Genoa, Italy, and although used on a variety of dishes, it has just one
great role: to be the most seductive of all sauces for pasta.
Genovese cooks will tell you that a proper pesto is as much about technique as it is about ingredients. They insist that if it isn't made in a mortar with a pestle, it isn't a
pesto. Linguistically they are correct because the word comes from the verb "pestare" which means to pound or grind, as in a mortar. In fact, several years ago in
Liguria, an Ordinedella Confraternita´ del Pesto (Order of Pesto Brotherhood) was created to promote and protect the region's treasure. Like many other pesto purists,
they favor the use of the mortar and pestle over food processors and blenders. But don't let such orthodoxy deprive you of the pleasure of homemade pesto. The nearly
effortless and very satisfactory food processor method is provided here along with the mortar and pestle method.
Pesto by the Mortar Method
2 garlic cloves
2 cups fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
Put the basil, garlic, pine nuts, and salt into the mortar.
Using the pestle in a circular motion, grind the ingredients against the sides.
When they are ground into a paste, add both cheeses, and grind them into the
mixture. Add the olive oil in a thin stream, beating it into the mixture with a
Classic Pesto (Food Processor Method)
(Makes about 1 cup)
4 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
Combine first 4 ingredients in a food processor.
Process until a paste forms, 15-20 seconds.
Add both cheeses and salt. Blend until smooth.
Recommended Pasta for Pesto:
Spaghetti is perfect for pesto and so are gnocchi. When spooning pesto over
pasta, dilute it with a tablespoon or 2 of the pasta water.
In Genoa, a homemade noodle called trenette is the classic pasta for pesto.
It is very similar to fettuccine. Make fresh pasta for a truly authentic version.
Apart from using pesto in its traditional role as a pasta sauce, spread it on
sandwiches, spoon it over a baked potato, grilled fish, or chicken.
Add a dollop of it on soup right before serving.
Toss it with steamed or grilled vegetables.
EAT YOUR HERBS
Flavorful herbs are
fresh ones have
more than dried.
To keep herbs fresh, store them upright with
their stems in water. Use in salads, soups,
sandwiches, and marinades.
PASTA SAUCE RECIPES > HOW TO MAKE PESTO
This mortar has a nicely polished exterior... and a rough interior so that it grabs on to whatever you're crushing. Use it to crush herbs and spices, make pesto or your own rubs for meat.
A quick and easy way to make pesto is in a mini food procesor. Small in size and lightweight so it's easy to store but powerful enough to handle a variety of food preparations.