There are few culinary pleasures in life as fragrantly intoxicating as freshly made pesto, the Genovese-originated mixture of basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, and cheese that – when made well – tastes even better than the promise of its sweet, nutty aroma. Though we’re like any busy , money-minded family and make ours in a food processor, we suggest trying it at least once by combining the ingredients in a mortar and pestle. Pesto comes from the Italian word pestare – to stomp – and when you grind everything by hand, you’re squeezing out and blending oils and flavors in a way that produces something even more wonderfully rustic, aromatic, and possibly more delicious. As for pasta pairings, we suggest something with grooves that can trap the pesto, like fusilli or penne rigate.
Also try it in Pesto Lasagne for a lighter version of the classic.
Find this and other Super Tuscan recipes in our book!
Serves: 4 / Prep time: 15 minutes / Cook time: check pasta box
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cups fresh basil leaves (about 4 ounces}
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Sardo or Romano cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 box dry pasta
optional: extra 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1Using a mortar and pestle or in a food processor, combine the olive oil, basil, pine nuts, and garlic and blend until a paste forms.
2Add the Parmesan and Pecorino cheese, and pulse until smooth.
3Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Be mindful that Pecorino and Parmesan are salty cheeses.)
4Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, cook pasta al dente and reserve half cup of starch water.
5Place pesto in a serving bowl, add a couple of tablespoons of starch water, mix and dilute. Drain the pasta and add into the bowl, mix well adding more starch water in very small increments to help the sauce spread evenly.
6Serve seasoned with grated Parmigiano and a handful of toasted pine nuts.
IMPORTANTE! When storing pesto in the refrigerator, add an extra layer of olive oil that will help preserve its freshness and keep the color from turning to dark green too quickly. You can also freeze it.