I grew basilico (basil) from seed again this year. Thanks to the unusually warm summer, my plants were very happy and grew nicely. I love to shake the basilico plant a bit, stick my face in it and inhale the incredible smell. Some of my basilico was already used to make passata di pomodoro. I’m using the rest to make Pesto, before it starts to rain and the leaves turn brown.
Pesto Genovese, usually just called Pesto, originated in Genoa, Liguria. It’s made with fresh basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, Pecorino Sardo or Romano, and Parmigiano Reggiano.
Before the age of food-processors, Pesto was made by grinding the ingredients in a marble or stone mortar with a wooden pestle. The words ‘pesto’ and ‘pestle’ come from ‘pestare’ which means to pound or crush.
The ancient Romans made something similar called Moretum. They named it after the mortar instead of the pestle! Moretum was a spread made with fresh sheep milk cheese, herbs, salt, pine nuts and olive oil.
Basilico was likely brought to Italia from India and the climate of Liguria was perfect for it. The Genovese adapted the Romans’ recipe to include basilico, and Pesto was born! In Liguria, Pesto is usually served with on trofie or linguine. It is also used on pasta, potatoes and green beans, all cooked separately in the same pot of water. Yum!
2 firmly packed cups large basil leaves
3 cloves of garlic
¼ cup European pine nuts
salt and pepper
½ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
½ cup grated Pecorino Sardo or Romano
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- Wash the basil and dry well. Water on the leaves will turn them brown and the Pesto will go bad. Yuck!
- I like to toast the pine nuts, but this is optional
- Blend garlic and pine nuts in a food processor until fine
- Add basil, a handful at a time until blended
- Add salt and pepper. Not too much salt, as the cheese is salty too
- Pour in olive oil slowly while food processor is running
- Pour it all into a bowl and add the Pecorino and Parmigiano
- Spoon the Pesto into small jars with tight fitting lids
- Seal the jar with a thin film of olive oil
- Pesto keeps well in the fridge for 6-8 months. If you use part of a jar, add another thin film of olive oil before putting it back in the fridge
- If you plan to freeze the Pesto, leave out the cheeses and add them when you are going to use it