Pesto Alla Genovese
Every August, we set aside an afternoon to make a year’s supply of pesto. We’ve got a great system - I portion out the basil and my husband measures out the other ingredients. After a brief whirr of the food processor we pour the batch into storage containers to freeze for use throughout the year. There’s nothing like the bright taste of homemade pesto to cut through the dreariness of winter.
I like classic basil-pine nut pesto, also known as Pesto alla Genovese. Although some of the ingredients might seem expensive, the cost per container is much cheaper than buying store-brand pesto and you have the added assurance of no chemicals.
In addition to the traditional Pesto with Angel Hair Pasta, try it on roasted vegetables or, as a change to a Caprese Salad, drizzled on top of fresh tomatoes and mozzarella in place of whole basil leaves. For a more substantial salad, drizzle it on fresh tomato slices and sliced hard-boiled eggs.
We make a BIG batch each year, usually producing a couple dozen containers. Most of these we pack in the usual 8 ounce portions but also keep a good supply of 4 ounce containers. These work perfectly when you just want a little on a salad or roasted vegetables or need just a dollop to freshen up a soup. When you use the frozen pesto throughout the year, do NOT heat it or it will separate and darken - simply let it thaw on the counter.
The key to pesto success is getting the best ingredients you can. This means a giant bouquet of basil, the freshest garlic and high quality olive oil. We prefer the strong flavor of Portuguese olive oil with its deep green color and often stock up on the Saloio brand when the 1 quart tins are on sale. Although you can always find basil available at the supermarket, it’s best to buy fresh basil from a local farmer. The flavor will be freshest and most intense. Don’t put it in the fridge but treat it as you would a bouquet of flowers keeping it in a vase on the counter until you’re ready to process.
Below is the recipe for a single batch of pesto and also for the year’s supply. If you decide to make a big batch, the longest part of the process will be picking the basil leaves off of the stems. You must do this immediately before making the pesto or the leaves will begin to brown. We pick the leaves, give them a soak to remove all grit, then spin them dry in a salad spinner just before processing.
Pesto alla Genovese – Single Batch
(Makes an 8 ounce tub of pesto - enough for four servings to use with Angel Hair Pasta)
In a food processor, combine:
1½ cups packed basil leaves, rinsed and dried
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Add and combine:
¼ cup grated Parmesan Reggiano Cheese
1 tablespoons pine nuts (pignoli)
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, finely minced
With the processor running, through the feeder tube slowly drizzle in ½ cup olive oil.
Mix well to totally emulsify. Pour the pesto into a covered container and set aside until ready to use. If you are making it in advance, cover the pesto sauce with a thin layer of additional olive oil to prevent darkening.
Pesto alla Genevese – Large Batch
Follow the recipe above but double the ingredients for each processing. The list below should yield about 18 8-ounce tubs. I generally purchase Stop & Shop Brand “Snack Size” containers, which stack well in the freezer and easily thaw on the counter in a couple of hours. The ingredient list below might leave you some additional oil and pine nuts – just toss them onto your next salad.
1 large “bouquet” of fresh basil (about 15” in diameter at the top)
1 to 2 heads of fresh garlic
2 containers of pine nuts (each about 1/3 pound)
2 bags of Sargento Shredded Parmesan cheese (1¼ cups each)
3 1-quart cans of Saloio Portuguese Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
18 8-ounce storage containers