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Genoese Basil Sauce/Pesto

All the ingredients you need to make pesto!

All the ingredients you need to make pesto!


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Take a stem of leaves in one hand and wipe the leaves with the other using a damp paper towel


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Add to the food processor the basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt and olive oil


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Pureed ingredients before adding the cheese. You can freeze the sauce at this point and add the cheeses at a later date when you are ready to serve the Pesto.


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Pour the pureed mixture into a mixing bowl


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Add the Parmesan and Romano cheeses


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Pesto ready for freezing in the ice cube trays and mini muffin tins. When frozen, pop them out and store in Ziploc freezer bags or cartons in the freezer

Pesto ready for the frig!

Pesto ready for the frig!

Dave’s basil was bountiful this year. He filled two large garden pots with 4 plants each. The leaves were not huge and since the plant was beginning to flower, I cut it all down and made five batches of pesto today. That’s about 20 cups of fresh basil leaves!

I have two other Pesto recipes posted on my blog. Today’s recipe is closest to the traditional Genoese Basil Sauce. Genoa is the city where Pesto originates. Christopher Columbus was Genovese and he carried pesto on his ships to the New World, the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. I wonder why I remember all this?

This recipe is to be made in a standard size food processor. It is an adaption of Marcella Hazan’s from her cookbook, The Classical Italian Cookbook. A well-rounded pesto is never made with all Parmesan or all Romano. Marcella and I use 4 parts Parmesan to 1 part Romano in this recipe.

4 cups fresh basil leaves, lightly wiping the leaves with a damp paper towel to clean. Basil does not like to be wet and will brown quickly. I grab a stalk with one hand and then with a damp paper towel wipe the leaves. Then gently tear leaves into two or more small pieces. Be careful not to crush the basil. The purpose is to make fairly even sized pieces for uniform measuring. I prefer the traditional green leaf basil. It makes a nice bright green pesto. The purple basil produces a darker brown-green pesto.

1 cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic, lightly crushed with a heavy knife and peeled (don’t over do the garlic; a very large clove counts as 2 cloves)

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1/4 cup pine nuts, (about 1-1.5 ounces)

1/4 cup freshly grated Locatelli brand Romano cheese (other brands are fine, but this is my favorite)

1 cup (about 1/4 pound) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

In a food processor place the basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic cloves and salt. Process with the knife blade till well blended. Do not overprocess or allow the basil to heat up. Scrape the sides of the bowl during processing.

Pour the sauce into a medium size bowl and stir in the cheeses. Freeze pesto in ice cube trays  or tiny muffin tins and when frozen, place the cubes in a freezer carton or bag for storage in the freezer. You can also store the pesto in a jar in the refrigerator by keeping a layer of olive oil on the surface and covering with a lid. Presto! Serve with pasta as the original recipe. Use as a spread on tomatoes and fresh mozzarella or sandwiches and bruschetta. Add as a flavoring to soups, sauces and stews. Use as a marinade for chicken.

OPTIONAL: Instead of freezing with the cheese, omit the cheese and add it instead after thawing the cubes. This will give a fresher flavor, but is another step in your preparations.

The Original Pasta with Pesto

Pasta, potatoes, pasta water, butter and pesto ready to be beaten together

Pasta, potatoes, pasta water, butter and pesto ready to be beaten together

This is a more involved Cooks Illustrated recipe from the July August 2013 edition. Here is the link. You may need an online subscription to view the recipe. http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipes/detail.asp?docid=40063

This recipe is very interesting for many reasons:

  • The pine nuts and unpeeled garlic are toasted in a 10-inch skillet. The toasted garlic had less of a bite and strong flavor as the fresh garlic does.
  • Boiled Potatoes are added
  • Potatoes are cooked in a large quantity of water. This water is then used to cook the pasta
  • A large quantity of pasta water is added back to the pasta, pesto and potatoes (over 1 cup)
  • The pasta and all it’s ingredients are beaten together as the final step. I have seen this kind of beating of the Risotto ala Milanese by our friends the Nebuloni’s in Milan.

I made this without the green beans and I used mini penne instead of the gemelli.

It tasted heavenly. The double batch I made was sent home as leftovers. Pasta with Pesto is a family favorite, so it was natural to make enough of this new version for leftovers.