Genève’s Kitchen

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Presto, Pesto!

June 14th, 2006 · 4 Comments

pesto.jpgI wrote about a great pesto dish that I enjoyed in NYC a few weeks ago but I wanted to post about the basic, pure, unadulterated version of this potent green sauce.

Pesto, as simple as it is, has complex flavors that are refreshing and yet substantial. Each ingredient is very intentional and is apparent without being overbearing. The balance of flavors is harmonious and the aromas from the fresh ingredients as it’s being made are intoxicating. The versatility of pesto is quite remarkable too. With summer almost officially here it’s the perfect recipe to have on hand for any occasion. I wanted to share my basic basil pesto recipe as it differs slightly from the one I shared with you in the post Spring in the City. From pasta salads to a condiment accompanying grilled fish there is really no limit to how pesto can be used. I love how it transforms a simple turkey sandwich or a plate of steaming hot fresh angel hair pasta.

Pesto never gets old for me. Each time I make it, I remember the first time I enjoyed it in a small restaurant tucked away in a little town in Italy near the Swiss border. I ordered it by mistake because I couldn’t understand the menu but at 13 I already knew I’d stumbled across one of the best plates of pesto I’d ever have.

Basil Pesto

2 Big handfuls of fresh basil, remove the stems
1/2 Garlic clove
1/4 Cup toasted pine nuts
1 1/2 Teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 Teaspoon sea salt
3-5 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Tablespoon of finely grated parmesan cheese

1) In a small dry pan toast the pine nuts over medium heat. Keep an eye on them and shuffle the pan from time to time so that they get a nice even golden color. The pine nuts will toast very quickly, when they are golden on most sides remove from heat and allow to cool.

2) In a food processor (you can also use a blender, just be sure to scrape down the sides frequently with a spatula so that everything gets incorporated) add the basil, garlic, lemon juice, salt, toasted pine nuts, and start to pulse it. Slowly add the olive oil through the feed tube as the blender is running. You’ll notice the pesto start to come together and transform from a coarse mass of basil into a smooth sauce. The reason that I give a range for the amount of olive oil is so that you can control for the consistency that you prefer. For a more coarse thick pesto use less olive oil, for a smoother thinner sauce add a little more. Over time you won’t even need to measure as you’ll develop an eye for your desired consistency. Also, I usually wait to add the parmesan cheese until after I’ve blended the other ingredients. A very important part of the pesto-making process is to taste as you go along and adjust the flavors to your liking. Keep in mind though that the parmesan cheese is very salty so wait until after you’ve added the cheese to adjust for saltiness.

Tags: Sauces/Spreads

4 responses so far ↓

  • Tanna // Jun 15, 2006 at 12:16 am

    I’ve really got to make some pesto. I have 6 different flavors growing to bush size in my back yard. I really love basil.
    Thanks for the recipe.

  • Grace // Jun 15, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    A note from Geneve’s old college roomie, who knows and loves Geneve’s pesto:

    Really try to get yourself a good block of parmagianno and grate it yourself. The store-bought containers don’t have the same pungent depth of taste, and can give the pesto a sandy consistency.

  • From Our Kitchen // Jun 16, 2006 at 4:53 pm

    Oooh, did you use a mortar and pestle to make your pesto? I’ve always wanted one of those!

  • Genève’s Kitchen » Blog Archive » Chillin’ While Grillin’ // Aug 9, 2006 at 7:43 pm

    [...] I've been using my grill pan a bit more recently and the perfect occasion to break it out today is for my submission to the Carnival of the Grill hosted by Adam of Men in Aprons.  I love the idea of this – I only wish there was a way to taste everyone's creations too!  Since it's so hot these days I wanted to grill something light and summery.  One dish that has proven to be a winner combines one of my all-time favorite ingredients: pesto.  I love the intense flavors of a freshly made basil pesto and I make it fairly often as it pairs wonderfully with so many things.  When I saw Giada De Laurentiis on Everyday Italian make beautiful grilled tuna steaks served with pesto I was inspired.  I've made this dish several times now and not only is it delicious but it's super easy to make as well.  I make pesto and then grill the tuna for a few minutes on each side so that it's seared on both sides but still rare in the middle.  This is a fantastic summer dinner. [...]