How to Make Pesto (video)

This is a video from The Pasta Channel for a traditional, homemade basil pesto using high-quality, fresh ingredients and a mortar and pestle. I have added a few helpful tips and pointers as well. Enjoy!

This basil sauce originates from the Liguria region of northern Italy where basil grows like wildflowers. This recipe depends on fresh, seasonal, high-quality ingredients and a mortar and pestle to produce the rich, fragrant flavor. Use the freshest, best-quality ingredients you can find for the best results!

INGREDIENTS: For 1 lb. of pasta: 2 generous cups fresh basil, 3/4 cup Italian or Spanish Pine nuts, 1 clove garlic, 1 tablespoon sea salt, 1/2 cup each grated Parmegiano Regianno and Pecorino Romano, 1/4 cup or so of good quality extra virgin olive oil. You will want to adapt the quantities of the ingredients to your taste. Warm the serving bowl in the oven to keep the pasta hot. Once the pasta and sauce are combined, serve immediately!

SEE ALSO: Recipe: Pappardelle with Basil Pesto (video)

SEE ALSO: How to Make Pesto and Freeze in Ice Cube Trays

(You can also use arugula instead of basil. Walnuts or cashews can be used in place of pine nuts.) 

  • Add a few of the smaller basil leaves to the larger ones for a sweeter, more delicate flavor.
  • Rinse the basil leaves gently with cold water, allow to dry completely on a paper towel.
  • Use the softer, more pliable Italian or Spanish pine nuts for the nutty, flavorful oil they produce.
  • Use just one clove (or 2 small cloves) of fresh garlic for one pound of pasta. You don't want to overwhelm the sauce.
  • Use quality cheese: Parmesano Regianno and Pecorino Romano cheese.
  • Use quality extra virgin olive oil.

Use a mortar and pestle for best results. The heat from the blades of a food processor (or blender) can impact the color and damage the flavor. Pesto is a raw sauce and should be exposed to heat only when you add the hot pasta.

  • Add the peeled, lightly chopped garlic to the mortar. Mash it well with the pestle.
  • Add the basil, a hand full at a time, and mash with the pestle using the rough interior of the mortar to help break down the leaves.
  • Once the basil has started to release its juices, add the salt to help break it down.
  • Add the pine nuts and continue to mash.
  • Add the cheeses and roll the pestle around to incorporate all the ingredients.
  • Add the olive oil slowly as you mash to develop the right consistency. Be careful not to make it too runny!
  • The consistency should be somewhat rough and fairly thick but still run off the pestle.
  • Reserve some of your pasta water to smooth the sauce later if necessary.
  • Once the pasta is lightly drained, add it to a warmed serving bowl to keep it warm.
  • Add pesto directly to pasta in small batches until you have it incorporated well.
  • Serve immediately!

Fresh pesto is best made in summer when basil is in peak season. For off-season pesto needs, look for a jar of pesto made in Italy. If you can find one from the Liguria region, even better! Check the ingredient label. There should be NO BINDERS OR PRESERVATIVES! There should be a small pool of oil on the top of the sauce when you open it. Just stir it to remix. You can add always additional extra virgin olive oil to the pesto to achieve the consistency you like. NEVER HEAT IT!! Allow the hot pasta to warm the pesto and release the fragrant aroma. Can be used as a spread or in soup as well!

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