I mentioned making pesto from the recipe in The Best 125 Meatless Mediterranean Dishes by Susann Geiskopf-Hadler & Mindy Toomay a couple of years ago for Weekend Cooking, but I recently made a batch and remembered to take some photos for this post, because there can never be too many blog posts about pesto.
The recipe from this cookbook is a very basic one that starts with two packed cups of basil, but for some reason, I find the proportions always work exactly right to make my idea of pesto. It’s thick, but not drippy; it spreads easily and mixes evenly into hot or cold foods. It’s bright green (underneath the top layer in the container that always gets discolored even with a thin layer of olive oil on top) and smells divine! Basil, garlic, Parmesan, pine nuts, olive oil…mmmmmmmmm.
(Yes, I have spooned pesto straight from the container into my mouth, as some people like to do with peanut butter or Nutella. But don’t worry, I don’t dip the same spoon back in, just in case you’ve ever come to eat dinner at my house.)
To make pesto, you absolutely must have a big bunch of fresh basil that is still nice and green. (Don’t put it in the fridge! I’ve learned you can just put a big bouquet of it in a vase of water on the counter until you’re ready to use it.)
Basically, you grind up the basil leaves in the food processor with garlic, pine nuts, and grated Parmesan, and 1/4 cup of the 1/3-cup of olive oil you’ve measured out and then as the food processor’s still going, pour in the remainder of the oil slowly, the way you do if you’ve ever tried making homemade mayonnaise. It gets emulsified that way, I guess, so the oil doesn’t separate out from the other ingredients. You can keep it in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or more and it’s still good.
Pesto was a revelation to me when I tasted it for the first time at a restaurant in the mid-80s, some time after graduating from college. I don’t think I ever had a dish of pasta again that tasted so incredible! So pesto has a special place in my heart, and is going to come back into style again one of these days, I just know it.
Some ways to eat pesto other than on pasta:
- on corn on the cob instead of butter
- on roasted or grilled veggies
- on a cheeseburger
- on a tomato sandwich
- on a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich
- with a spoon (for fanatics only)
Happy Weekend Cooking!