Tuesday, October 13, 2009

pesto time

All of that wonderful basil that has been growing in our garden all summer needs to be used before the nights turn chill and it starts to get a little bitter. Carol (left), one-half of classicpasta.com, and her good friend Judy got together so Judy could learn to make pesto. One of Judy's, and our, favorite dishes is halibut a la Carol, which we will divulge in a subsequent blog. It uses pesto to a beautiful result.

We make pesto with the basic Marcella method, and a slight variation. This is her blender pesto from "The Classic Italian Cook Book" and "Essentials." There have been a few bursts from some with "make-it-authentic" zeal that call for using the actual mortar and pestle (from which pesto gets its name). But the blender is what is now used in almost all of Italy, and it works fine, without all the mortar-pestle effort.

  • two cups fresh basil
  • one-half cup olive oil
  • two tablespoons pine nuts
  • four cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • one-half teaspoon salt
  • two tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Pecorino Toscana (or Parmesan)
  • three tablespoons of butter, softened

Gently tear the leaves of basil into small pieces (about the size of the smallest full leaf). Carol, generally in a hurry, skips this labor and just puts the basil leaves, as is, into the blender. Put the basil, the olive oil, the garlic, the pine nuts and the salt into a blender. Blend at high speed. Using a spatula, halt from time to time, and spatula the ingredients down into the center of the blender, to get a uniform, complete blend.

When well blended, one can go to (1) completion or (2) freezing for use later in the winter.

For completion (to use right away), put the blended pesto in a bowl, add the cheese and work it in with a wooden spoon. Easy to do (although one can just add the cheese to the pesto while in the blender and blend there). When the cheese is evenly distributed, add the softened butter and also mix it in with the wooden spoon.

Marcella suggests, very wisely, that when one is cooking the pasta, reserve a tablespoon of the pasta liquid and add it to the pesto, and stir, just before adding the pesto to the pasta.


Ah, pesto in the winter, tasting as fresh (almost) as when it was prepared in the summer. To do this, halt when you have blended well the basic pesto, before adding cheese and butter. Take the pesto and put it into a freezer jar, preferably small, seal well, and freeze. Carol also takes the basic pesto blend and spoons it into an ice cube tray, providing many small cubes of pesto ready to be used at different times. Works beautifully.

Then, when it is pasta time, have the frozen pesto already thawed (takes about five seconds in the microwave)) and then beat in the cheese and butter and serve. This just sparkles with flavor!

There are plenty of wonderful pasta and pesto recipes in www.classicpasta.com.

Next: pesto in its native habitat --Portofino!