Mama did a great post awhile back on pesto but I wanted to add a few morsels of knowledge. From her post, you can see that
PESTO IS REALLY EASY.
In fact, it’s so easy and so basic, the knowledge will open up a whole new world of other sauces guaranteed to impress your guests. 99% of times you see pesto on a menu, it’s made from basil. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are the basic principles to making “pesto”.
1) Fresh Herbs or Greens
Going green makes this a super easy rule to follow. Basil, cilantro, sage, oregano, etc. Or, instead of the heavily aromatic herbs, try a dark green like arugula, spinach, or kale. You don’t have to use just one either. As Simon & Garfunkel put it, “Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyyyyme.”
1-3 cloves depending on how potent you want your sauce to be. 2nd date, maybe just one clove. 3rd date and there are sparks? Who cares, it’s on…
The O.G. pesto uses pine nuts or “pignoli.” Try walnuts, pecans, or almonds. I haven’t tried peanuts since it’s such a strong flavor. But, hey, if you try it, let me know how it goes. Toasted or just plain, it doesn’t matter. Toasting nuts gives them more flavor. Throw them on a cookie sheet in a 300 degree oven for 10 min or until your apartment smells wonderfully aromatic.
Use a hard, aged cheese. Parmesan, asiago, pecorino. Try some goat’s milk versions, too. If you are lactose intolerant (me), goat milk is easier to digest and won’t have you bloated or worse all night after eating. And ahem, you vegans: instead of cheese, use Nutritional Yeast, usually in flake form. If any of you vegans have been severely missing cheese, this all-natural alternative gives that kind of funky tang that cheese offers food. It’s amazing. Use it in your next Mac N’ Cheese recipe!
Oils do not just come in vegetable and olive. Try walnut oil! Or grapeseed oil. They all have distinctive tastes so make sure you try it before you base a sauce on it. Flaxseed oil is super good for you and in fact, one should have 1 TB a day, uncooked. It tastes gross, though. Be careful with sesame oil as it’s SUPER strong and almost always toasted. Only use a little bit and use olive oil for the rest.
I know, you feel like the world of cooking is starting to unfold as you’ve been reading, right? Hell yeah, it is. Here is the simple basil pesto recipe. You can use these measurements with all the rest of your inventive pestos. A little tweaking may be necessary, depending on what ingredients you decide.
BASIC BASIL PESTO
- 2 cups fresh basil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 TB lightly toasted pine nuts
- .5 c Parmesan cheese, shredded
- 3 TB extra virgin olive oil
- splash lemon juice
- salt & pepper
In a food processor (don’t use a blender, the dry items will sit at the bottom while the blade spits in your face), put the garlic, nuts, and cheese in and blend until a kind of paste forms. Add the basil and process. Add the oil at a drizzle and the splash of lemon while keeping the machine on. The sauce will start to form before your eyes! Season with salt and pepper, making sure you taste it after each time you add.
If you intend to use this on pasta, adding a little water will extend your sauce and make the dish less clumpy and dry. I use my crazy pestos on crostinis or as a veggie dip. So multi-functional, this stuff!
Yesterday, I made a ridiculous Cilantro Jalapeño Pesto. I will make an Orzo Pasta Salad with it and Roasted Grape Tomatoes, Corn, Cucumbers and Ricotta Salata tomorrow. I will eat it for din-din as I write for the Skimkim blog!
Note: “Pesto” comes from the italian verb pistare which means “to pound.” Some people make it in a mortar & pestle. It’s a lot of work but if you don’t have a food processor and you do have a mortar & pestle (???), go for it.
- Mama’s Kitchen: Fresh Pesto
- Skimkim Yummies: Cracktastic Asian Peanut Sauce
- Mama’s Kitchen: Mint and Pine Nut Pesto with Gemelli and Asparagus
- Mama’s Kitchen: Ragù alla Bolognese
- Mama’s Kitchen: Bruschetta & Arugula Salad