Pesto – Classic Italian Pasta Sauce

The subject of a Pesto recipe is a minefield and subject to so much variation. There is no right list of ingredients or method. Many people omit the garlic. Here’s what I prefer. It sounds more work than it is to make. Once you’ve done it a few times it’s pretty quick. You can vary the quantities as you prefer, less cheese, more pine nuts, less garlic. In some recipes, the cheese is pecorino (it’s creamier, sharper, less salty.)
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 clove of garlic (try half or quarter clove if it’s too much)
  • All the leaves (yes, all, but not the stalks) from one of those growing basil plants you can buy in the supermarket
  • About 50g finely grated parmesan (Gran Padano works pretty well and will be cheaper)
  • 100-200ml of nice extra virgin olive oil depending on how “oily” you prefer
Method (Mortar and Pestle)
  1. Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan until nicely coloured. Remove them immediately when done (I like a decent bit of dark toasting on the pine nuts) to cool on a plate
  2. Crush and grind the garlic clove to as creamy as paste as you can manage, a few pieces of coarse salt can help this but you don’t want too much as the parmesan is salty.
  3. Now pound the basil leaves and work them till they are a green mush
  4. Add the cooled pine nuts and crush them with the leaves
  5. Begin adding the oil and making a loose paste
  6. Add the parmesan and amalgamate to the paste
  7. Continue to add the oil and stirring it to create a nice a texture you like
If using a blender then just toast and cool the pine nuts, then pretty much everything can go in the blender and get whizzed.
I usually just spoon the Pesto on top of hot spaghetti pulled straight from the cooking pot. Spoon over as much or as little Pesto as you like and mix through with your fork. If you like you can pre-dry some halved cherry tomatoes for about 1 hour in a 100C oven. Sprinkle them over your pasta for extra deliciousness. I also like to keep some of the toasted pine nuts back to sprinkle on top.
It will keep in an airtight Kilner jar in the fridge for a few days as long as there is enough oil in it.

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