PESTO! How to make your own
Pesto is the quiche of the 80s.— Nora Efron (screenplay for "When Harry Met Sally")
Originally a humble little rustic sauce of basil and olive oil pounded with mortar and pestle, pesto has now circled the globe. Two decades ago if you wanted pesto you needed to locate an Italian delicatessen. Now it appears on pizzas, is featured on fast-food sandwiches, and finds its way onto the condiment shelf of countless American homes, right next to the ketchup and mustard.
According to Andrew Wheeler of Serious Eats:
The first recorded recipe for Genovese pesto comes from a late 19th century cookery book, La Cuciniera Genovese, by Giovanni Battista Ratto. The recipe was not one that would satisfy purists today—Ratto suggested using a little butter in addition to olive oil; marjoram or parsley if one couldn't get basil; and Dutch cheese mixed in with the Parmesan—yet all the essential elements of modern Genovese pesto were present.
Here is a traditional recipe that purists will love.
Homemade pesto recipe
- 2 cups basil leaves, gently packed
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 2 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 1/2 cups olive oil
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 3/4 tsp. salt
Place basil, walnuts, and garlic in bowl of food processor. Pulse into finely chopped. Add oil, cheese, and salt and process until a smooth paste, stopping several times to scrape down sides of bowl.
How to use homemade basil pesto
- Twelve 1/2-inch thick baguette slices
- olive oil
- 8 ounces mozzarella cut into 12 1/4-inch thick slices
- 3 large tomatoes, each cut into 8 thick slices
- 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush baguette slices with olive oil; place on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 12-15 minutes, turning over after 6 minutes. Bread should be golden but not dark. Watch carefully!
Place a slice of mozzarella on top of each toasted bread slice. Top each with 2 teaspoons of the pesto, and then the quartered grape tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Tuscan Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Chicken breasts stuffed with provolone, sun-dried tomatoes, and prosciutto and then topped with a pesto-crumb crust
- Shrimp and Spinach Souffle Stuffed Pasta Shells
Jumbo pasta shells filled with tender briny Oregon shrimp meat and creamy spinach soufflé.
- Northern Italian Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, and Green Beans
Memories of an incredible pasta and pesto dinner in Vernaza and how you can create this northern Italian specialty in your own kitchen.
And Here are Some Other Pesto Flavors to Try
Pepita and Cilantro Pesto
2 cups packed cilantro
1/3 cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 clove garlic
2/3 cup oil
1/3 cup mizithra cheese, grated
2 tablespoons lime juice
- Place cilantro, pepitas, and garlic clove in bowl of food processor. Pulse into finely chopped. Add oil, cheese, and lime juice and process until a smooth paste, stopping several times to scrape down sides of bowl.
How to Use Cilantro Pesto:
- Dip for tortilla chips
- Baste chicken in the last few minutes of grilling
- Garnish chicken tacos
- Stir into cooked rice
Parsley Pesto with Anchovies
1 cup fresh parsley leaves, packed
1/2 cup capers, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
1 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Place parsley, capers, oregano, and garlic in bowl of food processor. Pulse into finely chopped. Add oil and lemon juice and process until a smooth paste, stopping several times to scrape down sides of bowl.
How to Use Parsley Pesto with Anchovies:
- Baste fish on the grill
- Drizzle on grilled steak
Arugula (Rocket) Pesto
2 cups packed arugula
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup olive oil
- Place arugula, pine nuts, zest, and garlic in bowl of food processor. Pulse into finely chopped. Add cheese and olive oil and process until a smooth paste, stopping several times to scrape down sides of bowl.
How to Use Arugula Pesto:
- Drizzle over thick slices of fresh tomato and mozzarella
- Add to sour cream for a vegetable dip
- Use in place of red sauce on homemade pizza
2 cups baby greens
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1 tablespoon fresh culinary lavender buds
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
- Place baby greens, thyme, lavender and almonds in bowl of food processor. Pulse into finely chopped. Add cheese and olive oil and process until a smooth paste, stopping several times to scrape down sides of bowl.
How to Use Provencal Pesto:
- Toss with steamed fingerling potatoes or green beans
- Drizzle over delicate poached fillets of sole
- Thin with a bit more olive oil or neutral salad oil and use as a salad dressing
© 2011 Linda Lum