Pesto alla Genovese
Region: Italy, Liguria
Category: Basic Recipes and Sauces
Difficulty: Labor Intensive
Pesto is made by pounding fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic and parmigiano cheese in a mortar. It is so popular and well-known it is sold in most supermarkets in jars. But it is not overly time-consuming to make from scratch so I recommend you try the extraordinary taste of freshly made pesto. I continue to make pesto by hand rather than with a food processor. Fresh basil leaves should be pounded gently rather than processed. The pesto should be a heavy, thick puree after you add the olive oil. The highest quality extra-virgin olive oil is essential. This recipe will provide you with a mild garlic flavor. To make it stronger and thicker use 1/2 cup of olive oil and 4 garlic cloves. Store in a jar in the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature when using.
Yield: Makes 1 1/2 cups
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
1 to 1 1/2 bunches fresh basil (80 medium to large leaves), washed and thoroughly dried
2 large garlic cloves
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (see Note)
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino cheese1/2 to 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. There should be no water on the basil leaves. Use a salad spinner to remove the water from the washed basil, then damp dry with paper towels. Place the basil, garlic cloves, salt and pine nuts in a marble mortar and begin gently pushing with the pestle. Once the basil begins to become mushy, pound more, pressing the leaves clinging to the sides down into the center of the mortar. Pound gently so that you make the pesto into a paste, not a liquid. This may take 9 to 12 minutes of pounding. Slowly add the cheeses about a tablespoon at a time every minute and continue pounding.
2. Once the pesto is a thick paste, scrape it into a large, deep, heavy ceramic bowl and slowly begin to pour in the olive oil stirring constantly with the back of a wooden spoon or continuing to use the pestle.
Note: To toast pine nuts, spread them on a baking sheet and bake in a 350ºF oven, stirring once, until golden, 5 to 7 minutes or place in an ungreased small cast-iron skillet and heat over medium-high heat until golden in a couple of minutes .