If you’ve never tried making pesto from scratch, kindly allow me to cast my vote for Totally and Absolutely Worth It. Pesto’s always pretty delicious, but the homemade stuff tastes more alive somehow: sunnier, more herbal, more green. More like itself. If you’re feeling very old-fashioned and Old World, you can certainly pound everything together by hand in a mortar and pestle, though I’ve never actually done it that way myself. (Gasp.) Start to finish, the food processor makes exceedingly quick work of it, so why not? Throw everything in, blitz and voilà: earthy-fresh, nutty pesto, verdant-green and ready to go.
Use to dress pasta, of course (thin with a bit of pasta water to coat well) but also as a sauce for pizzas, grilled meats and shrimp, on baked potatoes or scrambled eggs or sliced garden tomatoes. (And if you haven’t tried the chicken meatball recipe I posted here, do. So good!) Pesto freezes exceptionally well, so if you find yourself in a happy abundance of fresh basil, multiply the recipe or make several batches to save.
adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, 1997
- two large garlic cloves
- 3 Tbsp pine nuts
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 3 cups loosely packed basil leaves
- 1/2 C extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 C Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
- 1/4 C Pecorino Romana cheese, freshly grated
In a small, dry saute pan over low heat, gently toast the pine nuts (they can scorch quickly, so keep an eye on them) swirling the pan until the pine nuts are fragrant and lightly browned, about 4 minutes.
In a food processor, pulse the garlic, pine nuts and salt together until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the basil leaves. Have the oil ready; process the basil while pouring the olive oil in a steady stream through the feed tube. When it’s smooth, add the cheeses and pulse until well combined. Transfer to a lidded jar.
To keep the pesto from oxidizing, let it sit until the mixture starts to separate and the olive oil floats to the top; pour in a little more olive oil, just enough to cover the surface. Keep for about a week in the fridge (or freeze for two months); allow to come to room temperature, and shake the jar to emulsify.