Pesto, so versatile, so delicious, and so simple. The recipes that have fewer ingredients tend to be the best because each ingredient has to stand on it's own and be highlighted bringing out it's best. Pesto is not just for using on pasta, although the two seem pretty inseparable, it's also great on eggs, salads, potatoes, green beans, soups and sandwiches. For me, pesto is a quintessential summer recipe but, even though Spring is just awakening now, don't let that stop you from indulging in this aromatic herb provided year-round. Just cutting into it releases aroma that takes me to lofty heights of bliss. It's no wonder why it's also called the "king of herbs" or "royal herb." And to make pesto less intimidating, the word literally means to pound because originally it was made with a mortar and pestle. In fact, pesto is a word used to describe anything made by pounding. So break out your food processor or revert to ancient times and use a mortar and pestle (my preference) and pound (or pulse) away!
The pine nuts in this recipe can be substituted with other nuts. I have enjoyed walnuts quite a lot. It's a lighter and less oil heavy alternative and does not take away from that wonderful pesto punch of flavor. There are purists that will argue that pesto should only be made with pine nuts, but what's more wonderful than experimenting with your flavor preferences. Also, if you're using a food processor or blender instead of a mortar and pestle, grind up the nuts, garlic and cheese first, then add the remaining ingredients and puree them until smooth, scraping down the sides.
- 2 cloves peeled garlic
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 5 cups | 20g loosely-packed basil leaves (stems removed)
- 5 tablespoons | 75ml good olive oil
- 2 ounces | 60g grated Parmigiano-Raggiano cheese
- ¼ cup | 30g pine nuts, walnuts, or shelled pistachios, very lightly toasted
- Smash garlic and salt together in a mortar and pestle until smooth. (Use a blender or food processor as alternative.)
- Coarsely chop the basil leaves first, then add them in batches to the mortar and pound them into the garlic as you add them.
- Once the basil is well mashed and is a fairly smooth paste, pound in the olive oil spoonful at a time, until well-incorporated.
- Lastly, pound in the cheese and then pine nuts or nuts of your choice.
- Continue mashing everything until the pesto is as smooth as possible. Serve! Best used in a day or two because the garlic becomes more powerful as it sits. However, it can last a week in airtight container in the refrigerator or for a few months frozen (well-wrapped of course).