I was at the farmer’s market the other day, and came upon a booth selling huge bunches of basil for $2 apiece. I promptly bought two bunches, and decided that I would take them home to make pesto. I think every family has its own Pesto recipe. It’s one of those recipes that is flexible to accommodate almost anything, so long as it’s green. I’ve seen recipes ranging from the spinach to fir sprigs; but for me Pesto is all about the basil. There is nothing quite like the taste and smell of fresh basil, and almost no dish better at bringing those flavors out than pesto.
I got this much basil for $4!
My father has been making the particular pesto recipe for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up my mother did most of the cooking, but every once in awhile it would be my father’s night to cook, which was not something I looked forward to. My father had a fairly limited repertoire, and attempts to go outside of that set led to some disastrous results (he once tried adding grapes to spaghetti sauce…). The two recipes were linguini with clam sauce, a recipe that we sadly can’t find anymore, and pesto. I always dreaded the nights he chose pesto, as a kid I hated it, then one day I was forcibly shoving a spoonful of the green pasta into my mouth when I suddenly realized it was delicious. I still remember the moment, sitting on our back porch, when it hit me, like an epiphany (I also, in similar form, remember the first time I liked a salad; it was Caesar ).
Years later (in college) I went to make this recipe with two of my friends. Unfortunately, I misread the recipe, and instead of the one clove of raw garlic it called for, put in one head of raw garlic. The pesto was so garlicky that it burned my mouth. That didn’t stop me from eating it though, as it was still delicious. It also left me stinking of garlic for several days, which was fine as I wasn’t doing anything important, less so for my friend who was working at a prestigious internship at the time (she has since been hired to work there).
This recipe has two origins. The majority of the recipe, and the technique for making it, come from Bert Greene (I have no idea what the name of the cookbook is). The remaining inspiration comes from an episode of Oprah, in which the chef suggested replacing the olive oil in Pesto with lemon juice to cut the fat. The cutting the fat part is unimportant, but replacing about half of the olive oil with lemon juice gives the Pesto a really nice kick.
Makes about 1 ½ cups of sauce, or enough for six servings2 cups fresh basil leaves
½ cup chopped flat leafed (Italian) parsley
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
2-4 large cloves garlic, chopped (depending on how strong you like it, and who you have to see the next day)
¼ cup pine nuts
3/8 cup olive oil
3/8 cup fresh squeezed, strained lemon juice
2-4 drops Tabasco sauce
½ cup freshly grated Romano cheese
1. Combine the oil, lemon juice, and Tabasco in a measuring cup, set aside.
2. In the bowl of a food processor combine all remaining ingredients, except for the cheese. Pulse the processor to begin grinding. Once the basil is chopped, begin to slowly add the lemon/oil mixture into the bowl. Continue processing until mixture is combined into a sauce.3. Fold in the cheese. Serve over pasta (a pasta with lots of crevices, like rotini or radiatore works best), garnished with additional cheese and pine nuts.