Most folks know pesto is made with fresh basil…however go online and you will see many variations of this dish that originated in Genoa, Italy in an area called Liguria.
Specifically, pesto is a sauce made with fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, pignoli (pine) nuts, and either Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino…or a combination of both. It developed the name “pesto” since it was traditionally made with the mortar and pestle many moons ago.
There are a few quite useful tips that I apply when making my pesto.
#1…Toast the pine nuts. Big difference and fuller flavor
#2…A squeeze of fresh lemon will keep the pesto a beautiful green and will not overpower the strong flavors in this recipe. If anything, it adds to the flavor.
#3…Although raw garlic is quite tasty…it is also quite powerful and I have found that it can disagree with some people. Instead of adding the many cloves of garlic most recipes call for, I suggest you use the same amount of garlic and oil utilizing the infusion method which will impart the flavor without the physical effects of raw garlic. Let the sliced or crushed garlic sit in the oil for about 30 minutes and remove most…if not all…of the garlic from the recipe. Save it to cook with in another recipe.
#4…I don’t add the cheese if I am going to freeze my pesto. I add the cheese at the time of serving.even though most recipes mix in the cheese and all the other ingredients right away.
Now…here is Bert’s BetsaPasta Pesto Recipe…for the books!
Serves 6-10 (depending on what else is served)
4 packed tight cups of fresh basil
2 large garlic cloves
2 oz. pine nuts
2/3 cup EVOO*
Large pinch Kosher salt
Few turns of the white pepper mill
2.5-3 cups Parmigiano Reggiano
1 wedge of fresh lemon (remove seeds)
1 lb. of your favorite pasta (if you like a stronger flavor pesto, use less pasta)
Blend pine nuts, salt and pepper and 1/2 of the infused olive oil in a Cuisinart
Place basil in Cuisinart, add the lemon, and process adding the rest of the oil through the chute until pesto mixture is smooth
Mix in grated in cheese at this time or hold off the cheese until ready to serve. If freezing, DO NOT add cheese until ready to serve another time
Refrigerate the mixture and let sit for a minimum of a few hours to let the ingredients blend.
Serve at room temperature (if possible) on top of freshly made warm pasta and toss with some warm pasta water. Adding starched pasta water will add texture and flavor to the entire dish.
Feel free to salt and pepper to taste. A pinch of red crushed pepper adds zing!
As usual…please feel free to comment
*EVOO= Extra virgin Olive Oil