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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


Ingredients:

2 garlic cloves
2 cups fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons pine nuts
Coarse salt
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino cheese
1/2 cup olive oil

Directions:

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 wooden spoon.
Classic Pesto (Food Processor Method)

(Makes about 1 cup)

Ingredients:

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
Salt

Directions:

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.
Try our recipe for Trenette al Pesto, a pasta dish with potatoes and green beans.

Try This:  
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.
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PASTA SAUCE RECIPES  >  HOW TO MAKE PESTO
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