Pesto

Pesto is a magical basil-based raw sauce that is made in seconds in a food processor, but tastes really sensational. It is classically served with a dried pasta like spaghetti, but is also delicious in a bean soup or as an addition to other sauces. It can also be added to mashed potatoes or baked on half tomatoes in the oven with fresh breadcrumbs to make a light and delicious gratin.

If you don’t use it all immediately, it will keep in a kilner jar in the fridge for at least a month without deterioration, if the surface is covered in a thin film of olive oil and as long as the jar was sterile and the pesto packed down with the back of a clean metal spoon to make sure there are no air pockets.

The precise percentage of one ingredient to another is not absolute. You can use more or less of anything, except the basil which is of course the whole point. The Parmesan may be replaced wholly or in part by Pecorino romano.

You vary this theme by substituting a different herb for the basil, for example, mint or coriander.

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Ingredients

  • 85 g/ 3 oz basil leaves
  • 45 g/ oz flat-leaved parsley
  • 75 g/ oz Parmesan, grated
  • 55 g/ 2 oz pine nuts
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 200-300 ml/ 7 fl oz-½ pt extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Method

Tear the basil and parsley leaves away from the stalks, discarding the stalks. Cut the Parmesan into chunks that will go down the processor feeder tube.

Turn the machine on and drop the cheese into it, a piece at a time, until you achieve a uniform coarse crumb. Add the pine nuts and garlic and process again briefly, then add the herbs, followed by the olive oil in a thin stream until you have a coarse paste. Taste and season. Process once more, adding any remaining oil. You should have a spoon-able but quite runny consistency. Check the seasoning one last time.

Unless storing in jars as above, use within two or three days.

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