Thursday, August 29, 2013

Real Italian Pesto

What better than a simple Italian traditional Pesto?

"Ligurian Pesto is the second most popular sauce for pasta after the tomato based one and, certainly, the most popular one when it comes to cold sauces.  The name Pesto derives from the Italian verb to crush, "pestare", because for a real Ligurian Pesto, the ingredients have to be crushed using a wooden pestle and marble mortar.  The classic ingredients for Pesto alla Genovese are basil grown in Liguria (Ocimum Basilicum) hence the name, coarse sea salt, pine nuts, garlic, Ligurian extra virgin olive oil and grated Pecorino Romano cheese of the best quality."

Traditionally, Pesto was made using a Mortar and Pestle (some still make it this way) ~ thank goodness for the invention of Cuisinarts or better known as food processors or even blenders (yes, you can make it in a blender as well because Pine Nuts are very soft nuts).

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I have made fresh "Real" Italian Pesto many times over the last 15 years ...that's when I first started growing my own fresh Genovese (or Sweet) Basil ... never following a recipe as Pesto is one of those things that isn't an exact science ... well at least fresh pesto isn't ... a recipe calling for 2-3 small cloves of garlic, for instance, heck cloves really vary in size from bulb to bulb, so its basically about taste.  I've used the pre-minced Garlic that you can buy versus the freshly minced and in my opinion, freshly minced Garlic is BEST!

However, I've never frozen it so I checked out a few websites and found, on the secret to keeping it bright green after freezing ~ blanching the Basil prior to preparing!!!  Here's my version ... its delicious!

Let's get started ...

Real Italian Pesto

2 lrg bunches of Organic Genovese (or Sweet) Basil (about 2 cups tightly packed) Leaves ONLY

2 heaping Tblsps Pine Nuts, lightly toasted*

2-3 Garlic Cloves, minced just before adding

4-6 Tblsps  Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pinch (or two) Sea Salt

About 3 Tblsps Pecorino Romano/Parmigiano Cheese

* To toast Pine Nuts, place a drizzle of EVOO in a skillet and heat on medium heat.  Toss in Pine Nuts and toss around ... they toast up quickly so do not take your eyes off them.  You want them to be just lightly browned (tanned).

The amounts of Sea Salt, Pine Nuts, Garlic and Cheese are approximate ... Best way to get it just like you like it is to start out adding half of recommended amounts and taste test ... add more ... taste test add more ... you may find you use more or less then recommended.  Sometimes too, I have found, that the Basil can be the taste factor in adding the other ingredients ... as some years it just tastes better than others ... which is true for growing anything (herbs, fruits or veggies).

Boil a pot of salted water.  Prepare a large ice bath while water is heating (ice and cold water).  Once water is boiling, add the Basil for 8-10 seconds ONLY.  Remove and immediately plunge into the ice bath, swirling leaves around for a couple seconds.  This stops cooking process.  I use tongs for this.  Remove and drain of excess water.  I use a Salad Spinner (love my spinner).  If you do not have a Salad Spinner you can use either a Fine Mesh Strainer or lay on paper towels.  

In a Cuisinart (or blender), lightly process some of the Pine Nuts, Garlic and a tablespoon (or two) of the EVOO.  Add all the damp, blanched Basil and blend again on high-speed, slowly adding more Pine Nuts, Garlic, EVOO and Sea Salt, to taste.  

Makes 2 (4 oz) jars.  Leave about 1/4 inch between jar seal and Pesto as once it is frozen it will expand (like most things) and you DO NOT want broken jars.  Also, make sure you top off the Pesto with a thin layer of EVOO before sealing and freezing ~ keeps Pesto from browning on top.

Yum ~ doesn't that look delicious?

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