Making Perfect Pesto
A quick word on the Mortar and Pestle...
One of the oldest known "cooking" tools is as simple as a stone bowl (the mortar) and a stone grinder that fits into that bowl (the pestle). The mortar and pestle, as it's become known, seems to have popped up in many different countries simultaneously, and nobody knows exactly which culture to credit. Cave drawings in North America, Europe, Australia and parts of Indo-China all have images of early man grinding food with stone bowls so besides fire, the mortar and pestle can be considered one of the oldest kitchen tools in existance.
Today, many cultures still rely on the mortar and pestle, but the development of the food mill or processor has become a far more convenient replacement. There are purists though, that will never let go of their well-worn and seasoned mortar and pestle. The real advantage to using a mortar and pestle over a food processor is that the processor blade tends to heat up and oxidize the food being grinded. This can essentially "cook" whatever it is you're grinding changing both the color and the flavor profile.
The mortar and pestle is still extremely useful for grinding dried spices together, making pastes from berries and nuts, and of course making pesto. In fact, the very word "pesto" is derived from the word "pestle." The recipe below utilizes a food processor (for convenience), but if you're lucky enough to find a good mortar and pestle, try making your pesto the old-fashioned way for an authentic Italian flair!
- 1 1/2 Cups Fresh Basil Leaves
- 1/2 Cup Fresh Parsley (minus stems)
- 2 Cloves Whole Peeled Garlic
- 1/4 Cup Pine Nuts
- 1/4 Cup Fresh Grated Parmesan
- 2 Cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper to Season
In a food processor or blender, blend all the ingredients except the olive oil, salt and pepper together until fully blended. Make sure to stop and scrape down the sides of the processor if needed to make an even paste. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while blending until fully incorporated, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Easy as that!
Try these cooking ideas using pesto...
- use it on pastas
- use it as a sandwich/panini spread
- add some to sour cream for an amazing dip
- add some to mayonnaise for basil aioli
- as a garnish for tomato-based soups and stews
- add some to ranch for an amazing salad dressing
- spread it on bruschetta
- as a marinade for chicken
- drizzle around the plate to garnish