This Italian basil and garlic sauce is one of the greatest delicacies of all time. It is most often used as a sauce for pasta, but my favorite way to savor it is to spread it on lightly toasted French bread and eat it as an appetizer. Traditionally it is pounded in a mortar, but this blender method works just as well and it is a lot quicker. Many contemporary recipes call for the addition of pine nuts, but I find them superfluous and indistinguishable in pesto. The addition of butter, however, is pure magic.

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MAKES 1в…“ CUPS

2 cups moderately well-packed fresh basil leaves (about 1 bunch basil), stems removed, rinsed, and patted dry

ВЅ cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic

ВЅ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons butter, softened

  1. Put the basil, olive oil, and garlic in the container of a blender or food processor and pure until smooth. Turn off the machine and scrape down the sides as necessary.
  2. Pour this mixture into a container and stir in the cheese. Stir in the soft butter and chill until ready to use. (Note: The secret of a smooth pesto is to stir in the cheese and butter by hand not machine.)
  3. If you are going to use the pesto on pasta, then thin the pesto with a few tablespoons of boiling pasta water just before saucing the pasta. Pesto will keep for 1 month if covered with Вј inch of olive oil and stored in the refrigerator.

NOTE: To prepare pesto for freezing don’t add the cheese or butter. Freeze the basil, olive oil, and garlic pure in a tightly covered container for up to 6 months. Alternatively, freeze in ice cube trays then place the cubes in a Ziploc bag. When ready to use, thoroughly defrost, then stir in the cheese and butter.