Monday, October 3, 2011

Presto Pesto!

For the last few years, I’ve been growing basil on our New York City version of a  “terrace” (aka large flower box), but this year it was attacked by some pesky birds! A few weeks ago, at the farmer’s market, I decided to grab a big beautiful bunch of basil in place of my own. Its season is almost up, so I figured this would be my last chance to make some honest to goodness fresh pesto. 

Every Italian family has its idea of what real pesto should be, so I’m not claiming this to be a definitive pesto recipe, just what I like. Since basil is the star ingredient, I want it to shine through and not be muddled by a million other flavors. Often times I’ll add my pesto to cream sauces or eggs, so I like to keep it smooth and creamy, without an excess of olive oil. You can always add more oil later if need be. Pesto is so flavorful, that practically anything you add it to will go from good to delizioso!

For as long as I can remember, my grandmother (Nonnie) has been the one to make pesto. My family use to receive it in old jam jars, with their labels long since peeled away, and we treated it like gold. I’ve taken mostly the same ingredients from her version, but I’ve played with the proportions and added pine nuts to thicken it. Nonnie uses a couple of sprigs of Italian parsley in her pesto, and I’ve kept that the same. You won’t know it’s in there, but I think it contributes to the pesto’s depth of flavor and provides an added zing.


3 large cloves garlic
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano
¼ cup Pignolias (Pine nuts)
2½ cups basil leaves, tightly packed
1 to 2 sprigs Italian parsley (leaves only)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¾ to 1 tsp. sea salt
¼ to ½ tsp. pepper

Add the garlic, parmesan, and pine nuts to a blender or food processor and blend to a smooth paste. Add the basil leaves, parsley leaves, olive oil, salt and pepper, and purée until you’ve reached a smooth and creamy consistency. Taste to adjust seasonings, if need be, and refrigerate until ready to use. For long term storage, transfer pesto to ice cube trays. Freeze overnight and transfer to zip-top bags (this allows for smaller serving sizes, so you're not stuck with a solid block of pesto). It defrosts quickly, so you can throw it on pasta with a little olive oil and have a family dinner in minutes! 

I like my pesto on the saltier side, so feel free to reduce the amount of salt, also taking into consideration how salty your parmesan is.

Yield: about 10 oz. or 1¼ cups

  • If you’re doubling or tripling this recipe, do it in batches, or as much as your blender or food processor will allow.
  • Do your palate a huge favor and buy real Parmesan Reggiano. This can make or break the quality of your pesto, and believe me, it’s worth it!
  • In a pinch, you can always substitute walnuts for pine nuts. Also, to ensure freshness, store your pine nuts in the freezer.

1 comment:

  1. Persimmons, peaches, and now pesto? What's next? One thing is for sure - I can't wait to find out!