Thursday, May 17, 2007


Adapted from Make It Easy in Your Kitchen by Laurie Burrows Grad

I have to admit it. I'm not in love with pesto, although I know it's Peggy's favorite pasta sauce. Maybe it's the way most Americans use it. In Italy it's not just plopped on a pile of pasta. Instead, it lazily coats pasta and green beans and potatoes, which sort-of meld together. But that combination doesn't do it for me either. Summer is coming and with it tons of beautiful basil, and the temptation to make pesto, which sounds so good and smells so good, sneaks back every time. I feel like I should like it. Having said all this, there are some things I like to do with pesto. I like to stir a little into soup, especially Marcella's minestrone served at room temperature in the summer; I like to stir a little into some pasta sauces; I like to stir a little into rice pilaf. In other words, it's a nice condiment to have hanging around to use sparingly. That's why I have a recipe for it. So here it is.

By the way, the recipe says it can be frozen, but I once read Paula Wolfert's recipe in Mediterranean Cooking and seem to remember she recommends freezing it before adding the cheese so I can't really help you out on this. I also seem to remember that Paula Wolfert puts heavy cream in her pesto (I might be wrong about this so don't arrest me), which seems like cheating - kind of like putting heavy cream in spaghetti carbonara or aoili. It generally makes it better, but if the authentic recipe police find out, they come and take you away.

1 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves, stems removed, washed and dried
½ cup best quality extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese or a combination of Parmesan and Romano if you prefer the sharpness of the Pecorino Romano
2 tablespoons pine nuts
3 small cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
½ teaspoon salt or to taste (remember the cheese is salty)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (don't ask me why white, but what the hey - I have to use it sometimes since I keep it in a grinder on my counter)

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process, turning machine on and off until well blended and smooth.

Place whatever you're not using right away in a container with a thin, thin, thin layer of olive oil covering the pesto, and refrigerate until ready to use. However, if you know you're going to freeze it, don't put in the cheese until you are ready to use it.


  1. Hello -- this isn't a comment on this post, specifically, but one relative to your April 101 Cookbooks statement, which I just came across, where you responded to the fellow who was new to the kitchen and somewhat at sea. I thought you responded very graciously, and with good information.

    I'd have put this in an email, but I didn't see one on your site (g).

  2. Victoria- To really get the basil leaves' flavorful oils released, it helps to mash the leaves beforehand, easiest with a rolling pin or something in a ziplock bag, then putting the basil into the food processor. This more accurately creates the authentic taste and process in italy where the ingredients are mashed into a "paste" (pesto) with a mortar and pestle thereby releasing the oils, rather than just chopping the leaves as a food processor does.


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