Saturday, July 31, 2010


Ah, pesto. It has to be one of my all time favorite things. As far as favorite foods goes, it may have even beat out my nearly life long favorite of sauerkraut with mashed potatoes and knackwursts. It's been well over ten years since I've had knackwursts, and something had to fill in the gap. I'm not sure when I first had pesto, but my first try at making my own was just a few short years ago. Since then I've tried multiple variations, but my favorite is basil with toasted walnuts. At first I used walnuts in place of pine nuts just to reduce the cost. I quickly decided that once toasted, I enjoyed their flavor even more.

When it comes to the basil I use the Genovese sweet basil, but find that when you have them around, purple basil, and that lovely white and green variegated one "Pesto Purpetuo" work well too. The tall variegated basil 'Pesto Purpetuo' is named for being so very slow to flower. (Flowering is what will dampen the flavor, as well as the vigor of your basil. ) Globe basil has a great aroma, but flowers nearly non-stop, and harvesting all those tiny leaves is much more time consuming than plucking a handful of Genovese.

The recipe I use is from Alice Waters. I follow everything, except that I cut the oil substantially. It's a basic recipe that's easy to remember:

1 lightly packed cup basil

1 clove garlic


1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts (or walnuts)

1/4 freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup extra -virgin olive oil.

(I cut the olive oil by half, and then poor extra oil over top till serving to keep the basil fresh and green.) The pesto pictured above was made with 4 cups packed basil, 4 cloves garlic, 1 cup walnuts, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, but only 1 cup oil. I then divided the pesto into smaller containers for freezing, and divided another 1/2 cup of oil over the top of each before sealing their lids. The recipe I have instructs you to use a mortar and pestle to pound the garlic, and salt into a paste. Mix in the Parmesan. Transfer this to a separate mixing bowl. Coarsely chop the basil, and then mash them to a paste in the mortar. Slowly pound the pine nut mixture and the basil all together as you gradually pour in the olive oil.

So, all of that sounds like way more work than using the food processor, and it is. We think it definitely results in a superior pesto, however it's rare that I have the time or energy to opt for our mid six mortar over the push button processor! Either way its wonderful... and as everyone knows by now its great not just on pasta but in eggs, in mayo for sandwiches, and on tofu, fish or chicken. I try to refrain from standing over a jar full with a loaf of fresh bread, and carrying on until said jar is empty, but this has happened too.

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