Sunday, September 1, 2013

Recipe of the month: Pesto

I’ve been doing these recipes on my website ( for seven years now. 
Shortly after I started my blog, I included the website’s recipe of the month.  That was in June of 2011.
12 x 7... that’s a lot of recipes!  And who knows who has seen them?  I have no idea myself.  The website doesn’t have the feedback of the blog.
So I’ve made an executive decision.  From now on, I’ll be reposting the old recipes on the website, starting with the very first one, and posting them for the first time on the blog.  That means that they’ll be entirely new to those of you who read my blog, and maybe new to people who happen upon my website now, because although the recipes are still all there (under Past Recipes on the Cuisine page), the intros are missing.
From time to time, I’ll throw in a new one, just because I can and it’s a delicious one that’s left over... or new to me.  And just to mix it up.
So whether these are new to you, or “old friends”, I hope you’ll enjoy trying them if you haven’t and making them again if you have.
Bon appétit!

It's the end of the summer, and those of you who have basil in their gardens know that it will die with the first frost.  You'll go out in your garden one nippy morning and there it will be, laying on the ground, wilted and browning.  When this happens to basil, it's too late to salvage it.  It's gone.  Rest in peace.  And you'll be kicking yourselves for wasting such wonderful, sun-filled flavor.
   A perfect recipe for basil is pesto.  You may think of it as Italian, but actually it's also southern French, as many of the same herbs grow in both of these Mediterranean countries:  thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram... and obviously basil.  In the provençal language, it's called pistou.  But whether pesto or pistou, both stand for basil, the king of summer cuisine.

  • 1/2 c pine nuts
  • 4 (or 6) cloves garlic
  • 1/2 pound grated parmesan
  • 1/4 pound grated romano
  • 3-4 c fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 - 2 c cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper

- Using a blender or a food processor, grind up 1/2 cup of pine nuts.
- Peel 4 cloves of garlic, cut them into quarters and add them to the pine nuts.  (Make sure the garlic isn't sprouting.  If it is, its taste will be weak and bitter, which may seem a contradiction.  Don't use it.  Or if you have to because the store is closed or it's too late to run out and buy some more, remove the green sprout from the center and add two more cloves.)  Mix the garlic into the pine nuts.
- Add 1/2 pound of grated parmesan cheese and 1/4 pound of grated romano cheese.  (Some people prefer the 3-cheese blend that is available in most supermarkets, but I find the asiago tends to blunt the flavor of the basil.)
- Wash 3 to 4 cups of fresh basil, leaves only.  From the garden is best, because freshness is very important.  Just shake any excess water off; you don't need to dry it -- a few drops of water will get lost in the mixture. Add it into the blender/processor.
- With the blender/food processor running, slowly pour in 1 1/2 cups of cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil.  The better the olive oil, the better the pesto.  If you find the pesto is still too thick, add up to 1/2 cup more olive oil little by little.  You want the pesto to be smooth but not too loose.  After all, it should cling to the pasta, not run off and puddle on your plate.
- Add freshly ground pepper to taste.  (The equivalent of about 1/2 tsp is a safe amount; more might overpower the basil taste.)  I don't add salt to my pesto because I feel the parmesan is salty enough, and many people nowadays are on salt-restricted diets.  Besides, as I always say, it's easier to add it at the end than try to take it out.  So taste it and if you find it's lacking in saltiness, then add some and give the pesto another spin or twelve.
- Serve immediately over hot pasta, while the freshness of the basil is at its best.
And try to convince your guests not to add any more parmesan on top; there's enough in the pesto itself and that would destroy the balance.

Important:  You can keep pesto in the refrigerator overnight, or two days maximum.  BUT... I've never found a good way to reheat pesto.  Microwaving it will turn it into one cheesy wad of chewing gum.  Trust me; I've done it... and thrown it out.  Heating it, even lightly, on the stove or in the oven tends to make the olive oil separate from the rest.  So if you made too much (if such a thing as too much pesto is possible!), I suggest taking it out of the refrigerator well in advance and letting it warm to room temperature.  The steaming hot pasta will warm it to perfection.
     You can also freeze pesto, but if you do, remember to let it return to room temperature in its own good time.


  1. I always enjoy your recipes and the little comments that make it feel I am right there with you and we will be sitting down, momentarily, to a nice meal and a genial glass of wine.