Pesto Genovese

Even though it’s rather late in the season, the first full day of autumn to be exact AND I haven’t had a chance to finish this post… I feel I have to. It’s my culinary imperative. Besides, you can still get fresh basil…yes, even in plant form. How lucky are we!!!

To me, nothing says summer quite like fresh pesto Genovese, melting, lovingly, on some perfectly al dente linguine. Ah, yes. Tastes of summer.

The best pesto Genovese I’ve ever had…? That’s easy. Italy. To be exact, in Riomaggiore, the southernmost village in The Cinque Terre, south of Genoa on the west coast. Talk about getting it at the source!! It was eaten in restaurants as well as made for an impromptu dinner party, one lovely late August evening. Fresh-made pesto, local wine, just sliced prosciutto, mozzarella di bufala….ahhhhhhhhhhhh. Hands down one of the best meals I’ve ever made.

Somehow there managed to be leftovers from our terrace dinner, with some new found friends. Being so much like my mom and not being able to throw anything away… the next morning, I made like an Italian. Had it cold. For breakfast!! Please, please do not be even slightly grossed out by this – it was delicious. Fantastico. Buonissimo!! What am I always saying about cooking & eating ‘fresh’….. Is anyone out there listening…? I hope so.

That brings me to one of the best quotes I’ve ever found about food/cooking/eating, courtesy of British food writer Elizabeth David… “One of the main points about the enjoyment of food (& wine) lies in having what you want when you want it and in the particular combination you fancy.”

‘Nuff said.

Pesto Genovese

Traditions says to use a mortar and pestle, which I finally did. To be honest, the end result didn’t taste all that much different from using a food processor – but I did particularly enjoy the ‘bashing’ action, of using the pestle! Plus, it felt good to have finally, finally made the pesto, using the original method. This should make enough for 4 generous pasta servings.

2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts (walnuts also good!)
1/3 cup approx. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

1. Add half the basil to the mortar and start mashing/grinding with the pestle. As it starts to break down, add the remaining basil, then the garlic, salt, pepper and pine nuts.

2. When the mixture is as finely ground as you can get it, which may take a few minutes of work with the pestle, add the pine nuts.

3. Add only enough olive oil to keep the mixture loose – you don’t want it too heavy or oily and don’t forget, you will add some of the pasta cooking water, when combining the pesto with the pasta.

4. Once the olive oil is added, stir in the Parmigiano and transfer to a glass air-tight container and pour a thin layer of olive oil on top – it will help keep the colour.

5. This will keep in the fridge for a few days and don’t worry about a little discolouration on the top, it is harmless – and can be stirred before use.

*Tips for other uses: Bruschetta, Pizza or stir a spoonful into some good mayo for a wickedly de-lish panini spread~