Friday, July 30, 2010

The Best o' Pesto!

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One of my all time favorite foods, along with apples, peanut butter, bananas, and granola, is pesto. I do not even recall the first time I tried the food. By 7th grade, however, I was hooked. I remember many times, when I was over at my friend Annie's house, when we feasted like queens on pesto pasta. A couple of years later, after the publication of Ina Garten's first cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, my sister often snacked on pine nuts, peas, and Parmigiano. Following in her flavor combination, I upped the ante, snacking on (what is even today a comfort snack) pesto, pine nuts, peas and Parmigiano.

This past weekend, my mom was having friends over for lunch. We had an amazing raw tomato "sauce" made from locally grown, organic tomatoes from Wishing Stone Farm. I had picked up some delicious locally made cheese raviolis from Nonni's in Tiverton, RI. The perfect compliments? A salad of greens and beans from our garden, a crusty durum stick of bread from Seven Stars, and my pesto, made with love from our lovely locally grown (outside the kitchen door!) basil.

Basil Pesto

Ratios derived from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food

6 garlic cloves
Pinch salt
3/4 c lightly toasted pignoli nuts
2 bunches fresh basil
3/4 c freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Olive oil

In a food processor, puree garlic and salt until a chunky paste. Wipe down sides and add in toasted and cooled nuts. Process again until a chunky paste. Add the basil, in batches, chopping down into 1/4" or so chunks. Add the cheese, process again, scraping down the sides before and after processing. With the food processor on, add in oil, blending until you get the consistency you prefer. For the batch I just made, I kept the pesto thick, so I could spread it like a tapenade on crostini. When I want to toss it with warm, fresh pasta, I can just save a cup or so of pasta water to thin out the pesto into a sauce of proper consistency.

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