Monday, August 3, 2009

Green With Envy

Ever since I was an undergraduate studying in Italy, I have been trying to replicate the amazing Pesto alla Genovese that I had a few times while tooling around the country. I've gotten close a few times, but I think that I'm missing the fabulous environment in which to eat the pesto. That, and I'm not an Italian cook.

I did make some new discoveries after recently hitting up the farmers market for a bunch of fresh basil.
  • Buy basil that has not started to flower. I think that the leaves start to turn a bit bitter once they mature. The younger leaves are more delicate.
  • Buy super perfect basil that is free of any blackening or spots. No exceptions!
  • Wash and THOROUGHLY dry the leaves before making your pesto. This may seem logical, but I've been in a rush before and not dried the leaves all the way and my pesto turned out really sucky. I wash the leaves, then spin in a salad spinner, then dab with paper towels, then throw into the fridge for about 30 minutes in a resealable plastic bag lined with more paper towels. It really helps!
  • Serve your pesto over linguini. Other long pastas will also (obviously) work, but there is something about the linguini that somehow feels more authentic.
I know that anyone who makes pesto has their own perfect ratio of basil to pine nuts to olive oil to cheese. Some use garlic, some don't. Some toast their pine nuts, some don't use them at all. Some use parmesan, some use romano. Here's my version (and it will fit in a mini-prep!):

Classic Pesto

2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves (washed and thoroughly dried)
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix.

2. With the food processor running continuously, slowly add the olive oil until it is fully incorporated and the pesto is a uniform consistency.

3. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the cheese. Serve over cooked pasta. Makes enough for one pound.

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