A Pesto is a "crushed" sauce that usually has 3 or more ingredients and is mixed with pasta. The most familiar pesto sauce comes from Genoa, Italy and is a combination of basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic and parmesan cheese. These are placed in a food processor or blender and pureed into a thick sauce which is tossed with hot pasta. You can make a pesto with any herbs, nuts and cheese of your choosing.
- Use some herbs or greens: basil, parsley, arugula, spinach.
- Some garlic gloves. Raw garlic can be "hot" and strong. If you prefer a milder garlic flavor simmer garlic in a little olive oil until soft.
- Some kind of nuts: pine nuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts. Nuts should be warmed in a skillet on medium heat to bring out the oils and flavor. Almonds and pine nuts should brown slightly.
- Some olive oil - extra virgin for a lighter oil flavor or regular olive oil for a heartier oil flavor
- Some grated hard cheese: parmigiano-regianno, pecorino romano, asiagoYou can use a combination of items in each category like some basil and some parsley or just one of them. You can use some parmesan cheese and asiago or just one of them. Experiment with flavors you like.
One night I had a lot of fresh baby spinach so I used that, some garlic, olive oil, walnuts and parmesan cheese. It was tasty!
TO MAKE A PESTO FOR 1 SERVING:
1. Figure of handful of greens or herbs or mix of the 2. Basil has strong flavor with a hint of licorice, Parsley has a bright, green, earthy flavor. Arugula has a peppery flavor. Spinach has a very "green" flavor.
2. 2 or 3 cloves of garlic. Use less if raw, more if you sauté it first in a little olive oil because it will be milder. But use what you want depending on how much you like garlic.
3. 1/4 cup of nuts
4. 1/4 to 1/3 cup of grated cheese. You will want some more grated cheese to put on the pasta after you toss the hot pasta and pesto.
5. Some olive oil. How much you use depends on your ingredients. Start with about 1/4 cup of oil but have more on hand.
6. You can use spaghetti, linguine, ziti - any shape pasta you like. Enough for 1 serving - about 4 to 6 ounces.
7. Place your ingredients in a blender or food processor. A blender and food processor create a pesto differently. A processor works best, but a blender can work as well.
If using a blender you will put on the lid, but remove the small inner cap and pour the oil through the opening. If using a processor you will use the feed tube to add the oil.
8. Put the device on puree and start drizzling in your olive oil through the feed tube or the opening of the blender lid. Stop when it becomes a thick paste but not so thick that it does not move in the blender/processor. It should be a little loose, but not runny. You want it thick.
9. Cook your pasta. Drain it, but DO NOT run it under cold water. First, you want hot pasta and secondly you wash off the starch which helps the pesto stick to it. Don't over shake or dry the pasta when you drain it. You want it to be a little wet. And, by the way, DO NOT add oil to pasta water. It makes it slick and sauces will not stick to it. If you stir pasta in the first 2 minutes it is boiling it will not stick to itself.
10. Return the pasta to the warm pot, but off the heat. Put in some pesto and toss. If you think it needs more pesto, add more. Serve in a warmed bowl with some additional cheese on top and a little drizzle of olive oil.