The summer is here, and I can’t recall why I became a chef. I want to eat only five things: tomatoes, melon, iced drinks, popsicles, and iced coffee. Every July, I crave pasta with homemade pesto. The pesto is usually accompanied by very detailed instructions and a list of things I like to serve with, near, or mix into pesto, such as white beans, marinated and grilled zucchini, cherry tomatoes halved, and bocconcini. Mozzarella. That’s all I have planned for the remainder of July. Okay, I’ll be back when I am interested again ?… Here’s the deal: I have never posted a recipe on this site for a basil pesto that is simple because I always talk myself out of sharing a basic recipe. Deb, doesn’t the Internet have plenty of pesto recipes? Why bother to speak when you don’t have anything new to add? This is my internal monologue. But yet! I indeed keep notes on how to make pesto on my computer. I refer to them every July because most of the recipes I find on the front page of Google are missing important information. For example, they don’t give me the weight of the basil leaves (good luck trying to find two cups of the same size leaves or estimating how many larger plants you would need to get a couple of cups of leaves), the amount you will need of olive oil, and a reminder about toasting the pine nuts to maximize flavor This is a recipe site. It’s probably time to close the loop.
Some more tips and notes:
Pesto is derived from the Italian verb picture, which means to “pound” or “to smash,” since pestos are traditionally made with a pestle and a large mortar. Pesto is a general term that refers to anything made by pounding, grinding, or crushing. I use this word with great freedom on S.K. (See: walnut and almond pesto. almond and walnut pesto.) But basil pesto ala Genovese is so popular it is what people usually think of when they hear the word pesto.
Technique: I make mine in a food processor, but it can be made with a pestle, mortar, a mezzaluna, or a knife. Instead of grinding, just mince at every stage.
Ingredients: Almonds work just as well, but pine nuts (pignoli), the traditional nut used here, also work. Toasted nuts are best. Spread them evenly on a baking tray and bake for 5 to 8 mins at 350 degrees, stirring once or twice to ensure even color. It is typically Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romao.
Pasta Shape: The most common pasta shape used for pesto in Liguria is Trofie. This is a short, thin, twisted pasta made from semolina flour (hard wheat). No pasta machine is required to complete the shape. The photos are nowhere to be found, but I made this a few years ago. Getting the thickness of hand-formed forms right is complicated, so some pieces overcook, while others take a long time to cook. Here’s an excellent lead. I’m confident you’ll succeed.
If you want a mucky-looking mixture, ensure your basil leaves have dried. (Yes, I am a professional author, so why are you asking? ).
Avoid the lemon. Skip the lemon. I’ve always said we should add acidity instead of salt to food. Skip the lemon. It’s not the traditional way to do it and will discolor the basil. It’s important to season it.
Always keep some extra cheese to top off your dish.
Pasta with Pesto Genovese
The pasta can be any shape, up to 1 pound (455 g) (shown: trofie; or more traditionally: Gemelli).
Aged parmesan or Pecorino Romano, 2 ounces (55 g).
Two to three garlic cloves
1/4 cup (35 grams) of toasted pine nuts
Black pepper and Kosher Salt
From about a 5- to 6-ounce bundle with stems, heap 4 cups of fresh basil leaves (85 grams or 3 ounces).
Add more olive oil as necessary.
In a food processing machine: Use the primary chopping knife to chop the parmesan cheese into small pieces. Grind the cheese until it is powdery. Scrape the cheese into a large bowl and set aside.
Add the garlic to an empty food processor bowl and pulse it a few more times until it is roughly chopped. Add pine nuts and pulse until very finely chopped. Please do not run the machine too long; it will turn into seed butter. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, several grinds, black pepper, and basil leaves. Run the engine until the leaves are finely chopped. While the engine is running, drizzle olive oil. Add 1/4 cup of parmesan, and pulse the engine a few times to combine. Add salt to your taste. I prefer between 1 and 1 1/2 teaspoons of Diamond Kosher (less any other brand). It is a pasta sauce that I use primarily, so I like it to be well-seasoned.
Hand: Grate the cheese using the small holes on a box grater. On a cutting surface, finely chop the garlic and pinenuts together. Continue to mince the basil leaves after adding them. Add salt and pepper to the large bowl and stir. Drizzle in the olive oil while stirring. Add the cheese and stir until combined. Add salt to taste.
Use it immediately or store it in the refrigerator for up to one week.
To assemble: Bring a large pot with well-salted water to a rolling boil. Add pasta to boiling water and cook until it is al dente. This sauce is not finished with the pasta water on heat, which will cook it more. So aim for your preferred final doneness. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl. I let it cool down because I like pesto with lukewarm pasta or at room temperature. Add half the pesto sauce to your pasta and stir. Then, add more, spoonful by spoonful, until it is coated. If needed, drizzle a little olive oil to keep the sauce flowing. Serve with extra parmesan or as is, with a few additional (see below).
Extras: I usually serve pesto pasta with white beans, halved cherry tomatoes, bocconcini, or tinier mozzarella, and marinated and grilled zucchini. You can eat them alongside the pasta or stir them in. For the zucchini, slice a few zucchinis (or pattypan squash if you want to entice your zucchini-resistant children) into thin strips and drizzle them with oil, pepper, and salt. Grill or broil the zucchini until it is dark brown on both sides. Add a little salt and pepper to the capers, along with 1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and 2 to 3 teaspoons olive oil. Serve at room temperature. P.P.S. Sometimes, I skip the pasta and use this pesto only on the zucchini, tomatoes, and mozzarella. This recipe has similar flavors.