Pesto has been an acquired taste for me. My father did not like it; my mother did not prepare it, and I ended up trying it for the first time in my university years. Even in Italy, students are not immune from falling into a sort of culinary Middle Age that pushes them to eat everything come from cans and jars, and possibly a weird combination of these. Here we go, my first pesto was a pesto from a jar. The worst possible introduction to pesto ever. A disastrous date, a missed opportunity, a big cross through the word pesto for more than 7 years. Until one day, possibly rainy, in Utrecht.
A friend of my not-yet-husband, asked me to prepare ‘real pesto’ for her. She accompanied her request with a caricature of a typical Italian gesture. I could not say no. I had to keep up with the reputation that any Italian abroad has of being some kind of food prophet.
It had to be perfect. I armed myself with a mortar and the best ingredients I could find. Plenty of fresh basil, pine nuts, coarse salt, parmigiano reggiano, garlic and two special guests gently provided by my parents from Italy with love: the glorious Pecorino d’Abruzzo and Extra Virgin Oil from Pianella that never let me down. The result paid back the effort. That day a great pesto was eaten and a new friendship was consolidated.
Although my parents still send me from time to time some saffron from L’Aquila by post, I cannot possibly hope to hug again my precious oil and pecorino any time soon. Therefore, the pesto I made in Sint Maarten had to do without. Still, homemade pesto confirmed to be unsurpassable. Ready to try it?
NB. There are several pesto variants, with potatoes and green beans or even red with tomatoes and ricotta. The one I prepared is Pesto alla Genovese.
INGREDIENTS for PESTO ALLA GENOVESE (2 people)
- 50 ml of good extra virgin olive oil;
- 1 small piece of garlic (very small if you don’t like garlic too much);
- Coarse salt;
- 8 g of pine nuts;
- 30 basil leaves (carefully washed and dried);
- 40 g of Parmigiano Reggiano;
- 15 g of Pecorino.
Clean and dry all your basil leaves and be careful not to bruise them in order to avoid oxidation (which might result in a bitter taste).
Mash the garlic with a mortar with the help of a few grains of course salt.
Add the basil leaves, a few at the time, and continue to mash until you get a bright green and smooth paste.
Add pine nuts and cheese, in this order, and continue to work on the paste. Finally, add the olive oil and mix it all together.
“Yes, but sometimes I don’t have time to prepare pesto in this way. I just need something already made to mix with my pasta!” I understand that. That is why I tell you that you can also freeze home made pesto.
Here another problem. You made pesto but your plan for the evening has changed. Just make sure you pour a layer of olive oil on top of your pesto paste and cover it with a transparent film. You can keep the pesto in the fridge and the day after it is going to be as good as just made.
Homemade Pesto is very easy to make and the result is ten times better than pesto from the store. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for the sake of these poor basil leaves sacrificed to that horrific end: Please, do no longer purchase pesto in jars!
I special thank for my friend and guest Humera for the photos of this post.