Makes about ¾ cup, enough to dress 1 pound pasta
Pesto has now become a household sauce: it is easy to make and its freshness of flavor has made it an often-found friend on American tables. Pesto is at its best when used immediately after it is made, though it can be refrigerated for up to a few weeks if it’s spooned into a container, topped with olive oil and sealed tight. If you find yourself with an abundance of basil in summer, make some pesto and store it in small portions in the freezer, where it will last for up to a few months. (Frozen pesto gives a great burst of fresh flavor to hearty winter soup and pasta sauces.) I’ve given you two methods on how to make this, with a mortar and pestle or with a food processor, but the results either way are delicious.
- 4 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves (about 60 small or 30 large fresh basil leaves), gently washed and dried
- 1 pinch coarse sea salt
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 2 tablespoons freshly and finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 2 tablespoons freshly and finely grated Grana Padano
- 3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
To make the pesto in a mortar:
Place a few leaves of the basil in the bottom of a mortar and sprinkle the salt over them. Crush the leaves coarsely with the pestle, add a few more leaves and continue crushing, adding new leaves each time those in the mortar are crushed, until all the leaves are coarsely ground. Toss in the garlic and pound until the mixture forms a smooth paste. Add the pine nuts and grind them to a paste. Stir in the cheese, then enough of the olive oil to give the pesto a creamy consistency.
To make the pesto in a food processor:
Combine the basil, salt and garlic in the blender jar, add 2 tablespoons of the oil and blend at low speed, stopping frequently to press the basil down around the blades, until the basil forms a coarse paste. Toss in the pine nuts and pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Blend until the pine nuts are finely ground. Stir in the grated cheeses and enough of the remaining olive oil to form a creamy paste.