This pesto family recipe is always a crowd-pleaser and eaten with pasta, sourdough, risotto or seafood, I can almost guarantee silence at the table as plates are licked clean. Meaning ‘to crush’ in Italian, pesto originates from Genoa and is often referred to as pesto alla genovese.
It’s not always easy to find fresh basil, so I grow my own sweet Italian variety, although you could have fun experimenting with many different types for different flavour sensations. Trust your nose and select one robust in aroma and harvest the sprigs before the flowers form. Depending on the type of olive oil you use, sometimes it can impart a slightly bitter taste, especially when using a food processor as the polyphenols are squeezed out. Using a mortar and pestle will help to avoid the bitterness and keep the pesto vivid green. Plus, you get to inhale all those heady aromas while dipping in your finger to taste – as any good cook should.
45g freshly picked basil leaves
10g coarse sea salt
25g pine nuts, toasted
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
55g parmesan cheese, grated (or pecorino if you prefer a stronger taste)
125ml extra-virgin olive oil
Using a mortar and pestle retains the purity of the ingredients but if you’re short on time and muscle, throw everything into the food processor for instant gratification.
If using a mortar and pestle, place the dry basil leaves with the salt, pine nuts and garlic. Grind the ingredients by rotating the pestle using the salt at the bottom to help break down the basil and pine nuts.
Once a pulp starts to form, add the cheese in a little bit at a time until it has all been used and absorbed into a thick paste. Now pour the olive oil in a bit at a time, working with the pestle until it has all been absorbed.
Serve with pasta cooked al dente, dilute the pesto with a couple of tablespoons of the salted pasta water for a smoother finish. Or serve as an appetiser with toasted sourdough, spoon a couple of tablespoons through risotto or over lightly grilled prawns. Experiment and enjoy.