Pesto is a sauce originating in Genoa in the Liguria region of northern Italy and traditionally consists of crushed garlic, basil, and European pine nuts blended with olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese) and Fiore Sardo (cheese made from sheep’s milk). The name is the contracted past participle of the Genoese word pestâ (Italian: pestare), which means to pound, to crush, in reference to the original method of preparation, with marble mortar and wooden pestle. However, the ingredients in a traditionally made pesto are not “pounded” but “ground” with a circular motion of the pestle in the mortar. This same Latin root through Old French also gave rise to the English word pestle.
With a marble mortar and a wooden pestle, pesto is traditionally prepared by first placing garlic and pine nuts in the mortar and reducing them to a cream. The washed and dried basil leaves are then added with coarse salt and ground to a creamy consistency. Only then is a mix of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino added. To help incorporate the cheese a little extra-virgin olive oil is added.
Once, long ago, I made a pesto sauce from a recipe in a renowned magazine and it was a disaster. After that, I found another recipe which I kept for a long time, with non-specific ratios. It stated, handful of this and handful of that, and add oil, salt & pepper and toss it with cheese.
A few weeks ago, my darling niece, Nura, asked me if I would make her pasta with pesto sauce. For ten days, I was on a mission to find a traditional recipe with ratios that made sense. I came across many wonderful, creative pesto recipes by culinary food bloggers I follow and appreciate. I also learned that all kinds of nuts (pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, pepitas, cashews, pecans, sunflower seeds, what else?) and combinations of…
… or all kinds of herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro, arugula, kale, spinach, mint, tarragon, what else?) and combinations of, are used.
Other ingredients common in all recipes are garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and in many recipes, lemon juice, -and in some recipes, sun-dried tomatoes (soaked in olive oil) for accent color- are used in a variation of quantities to specific tastes.
The recipe which most caught my attention was a Basil Pesto recipe posted by
Please Pass the Recipe. It is traditional, simple, and easy on oil usage. I made the Basil Pesto recipe exactly as instructed. It was marvelous! Getting an idea about ratio of ingredients from Please Pass the Recipe, I calibrated the recipe I had saved, which is not a traditional one, yet another variation of pesto sauce.
Recipe by: Fae’s Twist & Tango (fae-magazine.com)
• 55 g/ 6~8 cloves garlic
• 140~170 g / 5~6 oz shelled pistachio nuts, roasted & unsalted
• ½ tsp salt
• 1/8 tsp black pepper
• 110 g/ 4 oz flat parsley with stems (stems are used, parsley stems contain more flavor)
• 110 g/ 4 oz basil leaves (without the stems)
• 1/2 cup (8 Tbsp) primo extra-virgin olive oil
• 6 Tbsp lemon juice (best fresh squeezed, approximately 1½ ~ 2 lemons)
• 3 Tbsp vegetable oil (to top with for storage)
• 150 g/ 2/3 cup ground Parmesan cheese
◊ Thoroughly wash and dry basil and parsley. Cut stems from basil leaves and discard. Cut stems from parsley leaves and keep stems too.
◊ Make a few cuts to the parsley stems and put in food processor. Add garlic cloves, pistachio nuts, salt, pepper and process until extra finely chopped.
◊ Add parsley leaves and basil leaves in 2 to 3 batches (depending on the size of your processor) and process until finely chopped.
◊ While the processor is running, add olive oil, then lemon juice, and process until into a fine paste.
◊ I did not add Parmesan cheese at this time. Since I was going to freeze both jars, I decided to add the cheese when ready to serve and toss it with pesto and pasta.
◊ Without the Parmesan cheese, this recipe will fill two 370 g/ 13 oz jars and have enough space to pour 1½ tbsp each with vegetable oil on top. Close with air tight lid for storage. It will store for one week in the refrigerator and months in the freezer.
◊ Each jar (one-half recipe) is good for 680 g/ 1½ lb (before cooking) pasta of choice.
Both ground Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan) and Pecorino cheeses are recommended for pesto sauce.
~ Buon Appetito! ~
So, what’s cooking in your kitchen?