MAKES: About 1 cup
TIME: 10 minutes
The best pesto is made with a mortar and pestle. And in Genoa, where pesto originated it’s properly called pesto Genovese, and everyone there will tell you not to even bother to try to make it elsewhere, because no one elses basil is as good (a ridiculous notion, by the way) few people will admit to using a food processor. But when you get into their kitchens, that’s just what they do. And so do I.
Although it is not traditional, you can substitute parsley for all of some of the basil, with fine results. Without the cheese, this is vegan.
2 loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
1/2 clove or more garlic
2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, pecorino Romano, or other hard cheese (optional)
Combine the basil with a pinch of salt, the garlic, the nuts, and about half the oil in a food processor or blender. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary and adding the rest of the oil gradually.
Add more oil if you prefer a thinner mixture. Store in the refrigerator for a week or two or in the freezer for several months. Stir in the Parmesan by hand just before serving.
Pesto with Butter. Toss this with pasta or rice or use it as you would a compound butter; it’s really quite special: Blend in 2 tablespoons softened butter along with the last bit of oil (do not store this version).
Mint or Dill Pesto. Try it on pasta or grilled vegetables: Substitute mint or dill for the basil; the garlic is optional. Use a neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, instead of olive oil and omit the cheese. Finish, if you like, with a squeeze of lemon juice. Use within a day.
Arugula Pesto. Terrific with grilled vegetables or plain rice: Substitute arugula tough stems removed for the basil. Omit the cheese. Use within a day.