Attempting Tasty Pesto

Pesto

Ingredients

1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts)
3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

I like to serve it over whole wheat raviolis or tortellinis.

Directions
Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Notes: Air is the enemy of pesto. For freezing, pack it in containers with a film of oil or plastic wrap directly on top with the air pressed out.

To clean basil, remove the leaves, swirl them in a bowl of water, and then spin them very dry in a salad spinner. Store them in a closed plastic bag with a slightly damp paper towel. As long as the leaves are dry they will stay green for several days.

How to Make and Store Pesto
Machine-Blended Pesto versus Mortar & Pestle Pesto
If you told a Genovese that you made pesto in a food processor, the die-hard traditionalist would grow faint at heart and swoon away. Pesto is valued for its texture as well as its taste and a strict traditionalist would say that only a mortar and pestle can do the job properly. Ingredients in a mortar and pestle are pounded together. They are crushed while a blender or food processor slices and produces a less blended flavor. Basil will taste fresher in a mortar and pestle, its sharpness more piquant.

We agree with the traditionalists, but we also suffer from that particular malady called “no time to cook,” an unfortunate aspect of our contemporary lives. Pounding time is not easy to get these days and so we turn to blenders and food processors to make pesto.

How to make mortar and pestle pesto:
You should start with roughly chopped basil (or spinach, or whatever herbs you are using), garlic, salt and roughly chopped nuts. One way to hurry the nuts to the right consistency is to roll them between two sheets of waxed paper with a rolling pin. When this mixture is pounded to a rough paste, add the cheese, and pound, pound, pound until well blended. Add the olive oil to the pesto a little at a time pounding with the pestle until each addition of the oil is blended.

How to make machine processed pesto:
The key to processing with a machine is vigilance. Keep your eye on the pesto so you can stop the processing before the pesto turns into a puree. Never, never, never puree pesto. With a great deal of experimentation, we have found that pulsing the machine, so you don’t go past the chunky stage and end up with a puree, is vital to making a good pesto in a machine.

The measure of oil you use will always vary a little, contingent on how dry the nuts are, how moist or dry the cheese is. No recipe can give you the accurate measure.

Storing Blended Pesto
Pesto is a great keeper and can be stored. Simply place in a jar and allow the oil to rise to the top. If it doesn’t add a little oil to seal the top. Keep pesto in the refrigerator. The pesto will have so many uses and will enliven so many dishes that you won’t really store it for too much time.

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About Leo

Taking it one day at a time...
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