August 5, 2010

Fresh Pesto

One of the things I miss most about living at home is the 150+ cookbooks my mom has accumulated over the years.  She never had to go to the internet for a recipe, she had them all right there on the bookshelves in the kitchen.  Her classic Italian go-to cookbook was Marecella Hazan's aptly titled Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.  So when I wanted to make homemade pesto, it was the first place we looked for a recipe, and I tried some others since, but none are quite as tasty.  Personally, Ina Garten's version (another go-to chef) has way too much garlic - 9 cloves to be exact.  And I love garlic.  But others might love how much I love garlic.  So this is the recipe I'll stick with, and maybe every once in a while, I'll throw an extra garlic clove in for good measure.

Marcella Hazan's Pesto
2 c. tightly packed fresh basil leaves
½ c. extra virgin olive oil
3 T. toasted pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine before putting in the processor
⅓ c. freshly grated Parmesan reggiano cheese
2 T. freshly grated romano cheese
3 T. butter, softened to room temperature

Rinse the basil leaves and pat dry before adding to the bowl of a food processor.  Along with the basil, add the olive oil, toasted pine nuts, garlic, and a pinch of salt.  Turn on the food processor and chop until it is a smooth uniform consistency.  Add the cheese and butter to finish.  This makes enough for about 1.5 lbs of pasta.

Now there are some changes I make.  The recipe says that if you are going to freeze your pesto, wait to add the cheese and butter until right before you serve it.  Rubbish I say!  I always add everything and freeze it.  It would be a pain to have to thaw it, take out what you need, add the appropriate amount of cheese and butter.... No way.  Along those lines - I also only use the Parmesan reggiano because it's what I have.  So I do a heaping 1/3c. Parmesan reggiano.  And pine nuts are stupid expensive, so I usually use the nuts I have on hand.  This batch has toasted almonds and I can't tell the difference.  My batches of pesto are determined by the amount of basil I have hacked off my plants (sweet basil, genovese basil, purple basil, and mammoth basil...I love basil), so I use her recipe as a starting point and do the math based on the amount of basil I have.  You can never have too much pesto in the freezer.

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