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The basil has been soaking up the sun and warm temperatures. Now, it’s time to make some basil pesto, to preserve all of that sunshine for the cold, short days of winter.
Pesto alla Genovese
Looking at last year’s photo, I’m surprised to discover that I made pesto exactly one year and a day ago. The instinct to preserve that basil must run deep!
While I was stripping leaves off the stems, I began thinking about the word “pesto.” The word “pesto” sounds like “paste” to me, so I guessed that “pesto” means paste in Italian.
“Pesto” is derived from the word for “pestle,” as in a mortar and pestle; and pestle comes from the Italian “pestare,” which means to crush or pound. This is how pesto was made before the advent of small electric appliances.
It’s a lot easier to make pesto today, thankfully.
Pesto can refer to various sauces made by crushing or pounding. For basil pesto sauce, the proper name is “pesto alla genovese.” It is by far the most popular pesto, and so we have shortened the name to refer to it.
Pesto also can be made from parsley, mint, cilantro, and sage.
Basil Pesto or Pistou
Over the years, I’ve tried many recipes for pesto. Sometimes, I’m disappointed by the blandness, other times I’m overcome by the garlic.
Last year, I didn’t have any pine nuts on hand, so I made it without them.
Reading a bit further, it seems that my recipe is nothing new. It was made in Provence, France, long before I “invented” it. There, it is referred to as “pistou,” (“pounded”), and is akin to pesto alla genovese without the pine nuts.
Where you decide to go nuts, or not, know that a long tradition of fine cooking is standing behind you.
- 1 1/2 c. basil leaves packed (about two 15" stalks)
- 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp. crushed garlic about two cloves
- 1/4 -1/2 tsp. sea salt to taste
- 1/2 c. olive oil
Wash basil stalks in sink, then set on a dish towel to dry.
Remove the basil leaves from the stems. Discard the flowers and stems. Place the basil leaves in blender container.
Add all other ingredients. If possible, use "pulse" mode on the blender to thoroughly mix ingredients; or, remove container and use a spatula to push down ingredients so that the sauce is uniform.
Sea salt and garlic quantities can be adjusted to your taste.
Check that the consistency of the sauce is uniform.
The sauce will get more tasty as the flavors have time to meld; so if you plan on using your sauce the day you make it, give it several hours to sit.
You can refrigerate the sauce for up to a week (sometimes, longer), or preserve it. I freeze my sauce in small portions that can be defrosted as needed.
(makes about 1 c. sauce)
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