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It’s pesto

Fresh basil has such a strong, wonderful fragrance.  It fills a room with its aroma and just begs to be put into some amazing dish.

Making a fresh pesto, which can be frozen (by not adding cheese) or stored in the refrigerator with a little layer of olive oil as a preservative (for about one week), brings a rich, wonderful flavor to pasta dishes but also can be a flavor enhancer to main courses.

Since some people find pesto rich or overpowering, when using it for pasta I often add about ¼ to 1/2  cup of mascarpone or ricotta cheese to make it sweeter and easier on the palate.  But that is just a personal preference.

I find that cooking the garlic a little before blending makes the pesto taste milder since raw garlic is rather strong.  Removing the garlic all together in the recipe is also an option, and still delicious.  You can also substitute half the basil with fresh spinach or kale.

This is an easy recipe because it just requires blasting everything in a food processor or good blender.

It’s pesto

Fresh basil has such a strong, wonderful fragrance.  It fills a room with its aroma and just begs to be put into some amazing dish.

Making a fresh pesto, which can be frozen (by not adding cheese) or stored in the refrigerator with a little layer of olive oil as a preservative (for about one week), brings a rich, wonderful flavor to pasta dishes but also can be a flavor enhancer to main courses.

Since some people find pesto rich or overpowering, when using it for pasta I often add about ¼ to 1/2  cup of mascarpone or ricotta cheese to make it sweeter and easier on the palate.  But that is just a personal preference.

I find that cooking the garlic a little before blending makes the pesto taste milder since raw garlic is rather strong.  Removing the garlic all together in the recipe is also an option, and still delicious.  You can also substitute half the basil with fresh spinach or kale.

This is an easy recipe because it just requires blasting everything in a food processor or good blender.

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Ingredients

Recipe serves: 8
2 cups fresh basil washed and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, skin removed
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romana
1/4 cup pine nuts
salt to taste
fresh basil for garnish
for pasta
1 1/2 pounds (for starter) 2 1/2 pounds (main) pasta
water
salt, almost a handful
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thoughts&stories

Liguria is a region in northwestern Italy where the most famous basil is grown under DOP conditions (denominazione d’origine protetta, a set of standards protecting the integrity of the basil and it terroir, similar to cheese or balsamic vinegar).   Not surprisingly, it is here we find the birthplace of Pesto Genoese.  Made with a mortar and pestle, basil is pounded with pine nuts, garlic and then mixed with plenty of cheese and olive oil.  The Italian word for crush is pestare– pesto being a derivative.

Many years ago, I visited a friend who lives in Genoa.  The taste of pesto on the small, twisted pasta called trofie is something I will never forget.  Trofie was not a pasta I had seen before, not even in Rome.  But for locals there are only two pasta shapes for pesto, trennete or trofie.

A note: Italians estimate about 100 grams (about 4 ounces per person- 1 pound box serves 4 people ).  But if serving for as a starter, you may want to the portion size to be slightly smaller.  I often measure out the pasta (since shapes differ) onto the plate that will be used to “guess-timate” the right amount.  You also need to consider the heartiness of the sauce and determine if more or less should be served- lighter the sauce =  more, heavier a little less.

 

 

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It’s pesto
  • time
    25 min
  • serves
    8
  • skill level
    Easy

Ingredients

  • for pasta

Directions

1
Done

On low heat, add about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to a sauté pan and cook the garlic until translucent. Set aside.

2
Done

Add the basil leaves to the bowl of a food processor, and then put in the other ingredients including the garlic and olive oil, but do not put in the salt. If you plan to freeze the pesto, do not put in the cheeses until you defrost.

3
Done

Mix until you have a nice, smooth paste, it should only take a minute. Add salt to taste.

4
Done

To serve

Heat pesto in a small saucepan over very low heat. Make sure you watch!

5
Done

Pesto with pasta

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, at least 10 cups. You want plenty of water- pasta needs to move around or it will become mushy. If you do not have a large pot, use two small ones.

6
Done

Add a generous amount of salt- or a general rule is one heaping tablespoon for each pound of pasta. The water should be "slightly less salty than the sea."

7
Done

Add your preferred pasta shape to the water. Set timer for 7 minutes but test pasta after 5 minutes.

8
Done

Before removing pasta, take a mug full of the pasta water to use later in the sauce. The starch from the water helps bind the sauce to the pasta.

9
Done

Once the pasta is al dente (slightly chewy and less resistant to the bite), remove immediately and drain.

10
Done

Strain pasta in a colander and put back in the saucepan, or in large saute pan if heating pesto.

11
Done

Add pesto and coat pasta in the sauce, add a bit of the pasta water to loosen and bind the sauce to the pasta.

12
Done

Add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of mascapone or ricotta cheese with pesto and a bit more of the water.

13
Done

Serve in individual bowls or family style in a large bowl. Sprinkle with fresh grated parmesan cheese, a sprig of fresh basil or fresh tomato sauce, click here for tomato sauce recipe .