Many things can keep a person from making pesto. Well, maybe nothing can keep you from making pesto. Maybe you are the Queen of Basil, whip up a batch every day and cannot fathom what life would be like if you never saw another pine put again. More power to you, but you are nothing like me. Many things can keep me from making pesto. In fact, many things have kept me from making pesto at some point. A sample:
- Reaching for the basil in the supermarket, then recoiling in horror when I noted it was 1,39 Euro per packet of two small branches.
- Reading that pesto really does taste better if you use a pestle and mortar instead of a food processor. I love my pestle and mortar, but the idea of grinding piles of basil leaves to a fine pulp intimidates me.
- The inability to find decent parmesan in any of my neighborhood stores or markets. Salty, plasticky Grana Padano is the best I can do. And don’t even get me started on pecorino.
- A warning about mysteriously horrendous pine nuts that might mascarade as perfectly fine nuts and then leave an all-consuming bitter taste that lasts for days. Days!
But this weekend, I got brave. The basil plants on my balcony were groaning under the weight of their leaves, the pine nuts at my supermarket looked particularly innocent and the Grana in the fridge wasn’t all that bad. So I reached for the pestle. But then I stopped. Did one use garlic in pesto, or not? I didn’t think so, but couldn’t be sure. A better cook probably would have made an educated guess. Me? I went online and found recipes for anything from rucola pesto with walnuts to spicy Asian-inspired pesto to pesto-light with tomatoes instead of oil. Unfortunately, not one recipe for straight-up basil pesto crossed my cyberpath. Well, there was one recipe, but it listed six cloves of garlic to two handfuls of basil. Surely if regular pesto had that much garlic I would remember?
I was about to take the leap and just leave the garlic out (I am such a daredevil!), when I remembered I own the Silver Spoon. Years of Italian kitchen wisdom, neatly complied into a shiny white tome. *makes dramatic hand gesture* “How could-uh I foget-uh?” *spoken in a bad Italian accent*
For a second I was afraid that something as basic as pesto hadn’t merited a recipe in this bible of Italian cuisine**, but then I turned to page 68 and there it was. Calling for basil, pine nuts, two kinds of cheese and plenty of oil, but not a smidge of garlic. A ha! A ha-aha-a. My kitchen instincts had been right! And the best part? It told me to whizz the basil in a food processor.
When the Silver Spoon speaks, I obey.
Pesto on SmittenKitchen hacked caprese
Basic basil pesto
You would think the internet has no dearth of basic pesto recipes, but you would be wrong. This is based on instructions from the Silver Spoon, but I have adapted it to reflect what I did.
Two big handfuls of basil leaves, washed and dried thoroughly
About 2 tbsp pine nuts
Pile of freshly grated parmesan
Pile of Pecorino Romano (I used only fake parmesan, and it was fine)
Enough olive oil to make a luscious sauce
Put the basil leaves in the bowl of a small food processor, add the pine nuts and run the processor until the basil is shredded. Add the cheese, process again. Transfer contents of the processor to a bowl (although you could do the next part in the machine if it has a feeding tube) and stir in a little oil. Keep adding oil in small doses until the sauce has reached the consistency you want. Taste, and add more cheese if you like. Serve.
**Which is what I’ve been told the Silver Spoon is. As someone who doesn’t know whether pesto has garlic, I do not claim any authority on the verity of this praise. It certainly is fatter than many a bible I have seen.