Monday, May 27, 2013

And Presto! It's Pesto.

I remember my first introduction to pesto.  It came out of a packet. No, really.  This would have been somewhere in either the late 80's or early 90's.  I spotted it in a grocery store; a packet of pesto sauce made by Knorr Swiss.  You see, this "exotic" green sauce hadn't really become mainstream in America at that time. Not only had I never tasted it, I'd never even heard of it.  What came out of that packet was indeed delicious, but years later when I finally found fresh pesto being served in Columbia, I quickly realized the difference.  This, of course, led me to "Hey, why don't I just make this myself?"

Pesto originated in the Ligurian region of Italy and remains today their culinary star.  Just as France dictates that champagne can only come from Champagne, the Italians have restrictions on true Pesto alla Genovese.  They insist on the proper ingredients, preferably all local.  So, pesto involves basil, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, parmesan, pecorino romano and sea salt.  If you're a purist, which I am not, invest in a mortar and pestle to grind the ingredients into a sauce.  This is the most pristine method of preparation.  I use either my blender or food processor simply out of convenience and speed.  Some Ligurians would say that the heat generated by the machine may alter flavor a bit, but <<newsflash>> I'm not Ligurian.  I'm a busy American mom whose attitude is:  when I want fresh pesto, I want it now!

Truthfully, if I had a nice mortar and pestle, I'd use it.  But I don't, so the blender it is. The funny thing is that some people I know have no idea how ridiculously easy it is to make your own. And, how fast.  Just this morning, we sat out on our patio and had coffee.  Neil and I both glanced over at our pot of basil and decided today would be a great day to whip up some pesto.  Now, the reason I'm posting this at all, is to show you how fast and easy this is.  If you're not in the habit of making pesto, I want you to start after you finish reading this.  

Pay attention, this is tricky...Pick a good packed cup of basil leaves.  Put those in your blender with 1/4 cup of parmesan, 1/4 cup pine nuts, 2 tsp minced garlic.  As you begin blending, pour in a 1/4 cup olive oil through that opening in the lid of your blender.  You may need to thin it with a little bit of water.  You be the judge.  


See?  Wasn't that ridiculously easy? Now you're ready to toss this magical emerald sauce with hot pasta, stir it into a baked potato, add some to that pot of minestrone you have on the stove or mix it into a cream sauce and drizzle over grilled tuna.  If you're not ready to use it, you might like this: I freeze mine in ice cube trays.  Once frozen, just pop them into a ziploc and when you need pesto, each cube will give you about 2 Tablespoons, depending on the size of your ice cube trays, of course. Here's an interesting tidbit:  years ago, I wrote to Vegetarian Times magazine and told them about my ice cube tray trick and guess what?  They published my letter.  15 minutes of fame.

Ok, that's it.  If you don't have any basil in your garden or on your patio, get in the car and go to Lowe's or a garden center.  That's step one.  

Now get going and buon appetito!


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