I’ve talked several times here in Discovery Cooking about pesto (traditional and some variations), but I’ve never really done an actual post by itself, with or without a little pasta. So that’s where we’re gonna work at today. A beautiful, traditional preparations, done the way I think most Italians would do it.
For this post, I used rotini, but you can make many kinds of different pasta with it. Personally, I tend to like the kind of pasta that let’s you pick up the pesto, like rotini, shells, and even spaghetti — which actually works pretty well. And by the way, there are a lot of non-pasta recipes that also are brought alive with a little (or maybe a lot) of pesto. Done right, it might well be the best pasta sauce ever. It’s got a green from basil, a bit of the nut flavor from the pine nuts and some Parmigiano Reggiano. It also has a great olive oil flavor, as well.
What makes pesto the best? It’s all in the ingredients. The top basil you can get your hands on, the freshest pine nuts you can get, good Parmigiano Reggiano in a piece, some garlic and some good, mild flavored olive oil — something you might enjoy eating with a bit of bread, for example. For my pesto, I use an Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which gives me a very good finish. You may want to experiment to find one that you like.
Here is the recipe:
- 4 medium cloves garlic (cut into small particles)
- Pinch sea salt
- 3-4 oz. basil leaves (cut into medium shreds)
- 2 Tbsp. pine nuts
- 5 Tbsp. (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. mildly flavored extra-virgin olive oil (Arbequina)
- Using a mortar and pestle, combine garlic and sea salt and grind to a paste.
- Add basil leaves, a handful at a time. Continue until all basil leaves have been crushed to fine bits and have released their green liquid.
- Add pine nuts and gently crush with pestle, then work into a paste with basil and garlic.
- Add cheese and continue to use pestle to grind into a paste.
- Slowly add in olive oil, working it into the pesto with a wooden spoon until incorporated.