The Sauce: Basil Pesto – Bright green basil with Parmigiana-Reggiana cheese, pine nuts and garlic are combined for a fragrant no cook sauce with multiple uses.
‘Great Sauces Transform Good Food into Gourmet’
Summer pasta with pesto
Fresh basil grows profusely in Northern Italy where in Genoa, pesto was born. But it’s also nurtured by gardeners in locations all around the world. One summer while visiting my sister Holly at her home in Texas, we cruised through her vegetable garden. Besides rows of tomatoes and peppers, she had a whole row of bright green basil plants with leaves in full bloom. “What recipes happen between your harvest and table?
“Pesto,” she said. “We love pesto.” I’d never made pesto before. Since I love basil I asked about how she makes her pesto. Basil is the anchor ingredient. Rather than the typical herb flavor builder in sauces, soups and pasta dishes, it is the dish.
Pesto means ‘to pound or crush’ because it is traditionally made with a marble mortar and wooden pestle. This recipe uses a combination preparation, modern food processor plus muscle pump grating.
Light and fragrant, fresh and colorful, pesto is a no heat, no simmer, fast and fabulous pasta sauce for summer dining. In the time it takes to cook al dente pasta, you can make pesto. Add a heaping spoonful of pesto and stir to coat the noodles. Basil is peppery, pungent. It belongs to the mint family so it has a fresh ‘barely there’ hint of mint. A distinctive herb, it’s frequently associated with Italian, Thai and Indonesian cuisines. Available all year round, pesto could find it’s way to your table for a week night supper.
Prep Time: 5 Minutes | Cook Time: 0 Minutes | Yield: 1 Cup | Level: Easy
- 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves, 4 oz
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3 Tbsp pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic, finely grated
- 1 oz Parmigiana-Reggiana cheese, about 1/2 cup
- 3 Tbsp butter, softened
Special Equipment – food processor
Substitute a blender for the food processor or hand chop the ingredients until very fine like an Italian grandmother might make it.
Store leftover pesto in the fridge up to 1 week with a thin layer of olive oil over the top to seal out the air. This will retain the bright green basil color.
Pesto can also be frozen. Freeze in small containers (1/2 cup or less) with a thin layer of olive oil. This will preserve the bright green color of the sauce. Another way to freeze pesto is in an ice cube tray (place a thin layer of olive oil on each cube). Once frozen, pop out pesto cubes and place in a freezer zipper bag to use small amounts in various recipes such as: dips, soups, salad dressing, sandwiches and dressing tomatoes.
Use pesto for pasta sauce or in meat sauce or soup. Spread on pesto pizza and sandwiches. Make pesto salad dressing or pesto dip. Drizzle on pesto tomato wedges or mix into steamed rice.
- Exchange pine nuts for walnuts, pecans or cashews.
Inspiration – Marcella Hazan’s recipe
Cook with Sauces
Written by Helen Horton
Photographs by Helen Horton
Updated: July 1, 2013