The peaked, sludgy "pesto" sold at stores really ought to be ashamed of itself.
It's gone and turned a decent-sized portion of the population into haters, which is ludicrous because we are talking about an amalgam of earnest, honorable ingredients--fresh basil, toasted pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano, garlic, and olive oil--all of which want to please us.
Pesto needs an advocacy group.
Representatives who, with the Ligurian sauce's best interests in mind, will enforce the following:
1) Pesto is not to be purchased, but rather made with a mortar and pestle or a food processor.
2) Pesto is to be used soon upon making, or else frozen in ice cube trays and used within a month or two.
3) Pesto is never to be cooked, just gently warmed by the residual heat of its co-ingredients.
Pesto advocates will proselytize its versatility and have mouth-watering suggestions at the ready (i.e., to sauce the signature Genovese pasta of trenette with boiled potatoes and green beans; to spread on a ciabatta sandwich with grilled zucchini, caramelized onions, and smoked scarmoza cheese; to swirl into risotto or to dollop atop minestrone; to dress up the traditional Caprese salad; to zigzag over a bubbly Pizza Margherita; to brighten up grilled proteins; to slather over corn-on-the-cob, etc.)
They will promote its adaptability (i.e., mint+pistachio+pecorino; sundried tomato+walnut+aged goat cheese; artichoke+lemon; pea+almond+parsley; arugula+hazelnut+parmigiano, etc).
They will vow to dispense the secret ingredient (a crushed up Vitamin C tablet) and method (adding a thin film of olive oil to the surface) to keeping pesto emerald green.
They will work tirelessly to undo the years of damage wrought by Classico, Buitoni, and Bertolli, using their public platform to right wrongs and to protect pesto proper.
Makes 1 cup
This recipe can be scaled and changed invariably. Use it as a catapult for creativity--adding, subtracting, and modifying to suit your wildest dreams. Omit the Vitamin C in any recipe that doesn't use tender green leaves prone to oxidation.
- 4 cups of fresh basil leaves
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 1/8 tsp. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), crushed into a powder
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, fluffily grated
Put the basil, garlic, pine nuts, Vitamin C, salt, and pepper into a mortar (if you have scores to settle) or a food processor. Pound the ingredients with the pestle and some elbow grease, or blitz them with quick bursts of the pulse button, until a coarse paste forms.
Stream in the olive oil, adding enough to achieve a flowing--but not drippy--consistency.
If using the mortar, stir in the cheese with a wooden spoon. For food processors, sprinkle in the cheese, pulsing once or twice to combine.
Taste and adjust the pesto for seasoning and consistency, adding more salt, pepper, or olive oil as necessary.
Transfer the pesto to a small jar or bowl and coat its surface with a thin film of olive oil to act as a sealant. Keep it at room temperature if using imminently, or else smooth plastic wrap across its oiled meniscus and refrigerate. Do bring the pesto to room temperature before using it.