14 May 2012

A CRUSH ON BASIL - PESTO ALLA GENOVESE

A CRUSH ON BASIL - PESTO ALLA GENOVESE
A CRUSH ON BASIL - PESTO ALLA GENOVESE
Pesto originates from Genoa, the capital of Liguria, a region in the northwest of Italy. Apparently the Romans used to eat a similar paste called 'Moretum' (Mortarium = grinding bowl), made from cheese, garlic and herbs. What was missing at the time was the basil, but that arrived much later in Italy from India where it had its original roots. Apparently each family in Liguria and Genoa has their own secret recipe, with no two Pestos the same. We have tried several versions, but the recipe below, made with pestle and mortar beat all our previous attempts. 'Pestare' is Italian for crush or beat, and the traditional way to make Pesto is by crushing and grinding it in a (marble) mortar with a (wooden) pestle. It is said to help release the essential oils and flavours. 

A CRUSH ON BASIL - PESTO ALLA GENOVESE
The coarse texture of the crushed Pesto means also that the ingredients stay tasty in their own right. Unfortunately it is also a lot more time-consuming. But mortar & pestle, or food processor, important are good quality ingredients: the cheese should be best quality Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano at equal weight. I tend to buy on the block and grate it myself with a coarse cheese grater. The pine nuts can be either added natural, or fried in a little olive oil before crushing to enhance the nutty flavour. I only use very high quality dark green Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I tried it once with less quality oil, and the difference was vast. And if you are lucky enough to be able to get hold of 'PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) Genoese Basil', and 'PDO Extra-Virgin Olive Oil from the Italian Riviera'... renowned for its sweet and fruity taste' (oh how wonderful that sounds, I think I wouldn't need anything else than that on my pasta) then try the recipe from the Pesto World Championship... In any case: enjoy and Buon Appetito! 

Recipe based on: giallozafferano
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50g basil leaves
100ml extra virgin olive oil
110g Cheese: half Pecorino Romano, half Parmigiano Reggiano
15g pine nuts
1-2 cloves garlic
sea salt


Wash the basil leaves under cold water and dry completely using a salad spinner or paper towels, making sure not to rub the leaves. Grate the cheeses and cut the garlic into smaller pieces. Then make the pesto following one of the two methods below: 


Pestle & Mortar: 
Add the garlic and pine nuts with a pinch of salt to the pestle and mortar, crush and grind. Once the garlic and nuts have turned into a smooth paste, add a few basil leaves and 2-3 sea salt kernels. Bash the leaves into a paste using grinding and stirring movements. Add all the basil and oil in small portions at a time, turning the mortar every so often app. 90 degrees against the direction of grinding and stirring. Once all basil and oil have been added and turned into a paste, and the basil drips bright green liquid, add the cheese and the olive oil, little at a time, and grind well into the paste. Do so until the whole cheese and garlic have been incorporated and you have a smooth paste. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
A CRUSH ON BASIL - PESTO ALLA GENOVESE
Food processor (better than food blender): 
In order not to heat up the pesto during processing, refrigerate the bowl and blade of the food processor for 1 to 1 1/2 hours before use. Only use the blitz, or on-and-off, function to blend the ingredients together. Add the basil, garlic and pine nuts to the bowl and blitz until roughly cut. Add the olive oil very slowly blitzing after each addition until the pesto has turned into a smooth paste. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and stir in the greated cheese. 

Serve on Linguine, HOME-MADE POTATO GNOCCHI, or any other pasta of your choice, but make sure when draining the pasta to catch some of the pasta cooking water. Add approximately 1 Tbsp of the water to the pasta before combing it with the Pesto. This helps the Pesto to adhere to the Pasta, rather than be sucked up by it completely, and the pasta to stay moist. Stir well and serve sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan. 
A CRUSH ON BASIL - PESTO ALLA GENOVESE
Tips: 
- To store fresh basil leaves: put the leaves unwashed into a plastic bag together with a slightly moist paper towel. Placed in the fridge the leaves should stay fresh for several days. 
- Pesto keeps fresh in the fridge for app. 1 week, but it's best to cover the complete Pesto  surface tightly with cling film; alternatively cover the surface of the Pesto with a layer of olive oil;  put the Pesto into an airtight container. 
- In case pesto is frozen before use, do not stir in the cheese immediately, but cover the pesto with a layer of oil before freezing; mix in the cheese once the Pesto is thawed and ready for use. To divide the Pesto into smaller portions, fill the Pesto into an ice cube tray. Once frozen, remove from the tray and store in a freezer bag. This way the portions will stay separated inside the bag and can be removed individually. Alternatively use special ice cube freezer bags. 
A CRUSH ON BASIL - PESTO ALLA GENOVESE


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A CRUSH ON BASIL - PESTO ALLA GENOVESE      


A CRUSH ON BASIL - PESTO ALLA GENOVESE

50g basil leaves
100ml extra virgin olive oil
110g Cheese: half Pecorino Romano, half Parmigiano Reggiano
15g pine nuts
1-2 cloves garlic
sea salt

Wash the basil leaves under cold water and dry completely using a salad spinner or paper towels, making sure not to rub the leaves. Grate the cheeses and cut the garlic into smaller pieces. Then make the pesto following one of the two methods below: 


Pestle & Mortar: 
Add the garlic and pine nuts with a pinch of salt to the pestle and mortar, crush and grind. Once the garlic and nuts have turned into a smooth paste, add a few basil leaves and 2-3 sea salt kernels. Bash the leaves into a paste using grinding and stirring movements. Add all the basil and oil in small portions at a time, turning the mortar every so often app. 90 degrees against the direction of grinding and stirring. Once all basil and oil have been added and turned into a paste, and the basil drips bright green liquid, add the cheese and the olive oil, little at a time, and grind well into the paste. Do so until the whole cheese and garlic have been incorporated and you have a smooth paste. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

Food processor (better than food blender): 
In order not to heat up the pesto during processing, refrigerate the bowl and blade of the food processor for 1 to 1 1/2 hours before use. Only use the blitz, or on-and-off, function to blend the ingredients together. Add the basil, garlic and pine nuts to the bowl and blitz until roughly cut. Add the olive oil very slowly blitzing after each addition until the pesto has turned into a smooth paste. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and stir in the greated cheese. 

Serve on Linguine, HOME-MADE POTATO GNOCCHI, or any other pasta of your choice, but make sure when draining the pasta to catch some of the pasta cooking water. Add approximately 1 Tbsp of the water to the pasta before combing it with the Pesto. This helps the Pesto to adhere to the Pasta, rather than be sucked up by it completely, and the pasta to stay moist. Stir well and serve sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan. 

Tips: 
- To store fresh basil leaves: put the leaves unwashed into a plastic bag together with a slightly moist paper towel. Placed in the fridge the leaves should stay fresh for several days. 
- Pesto keeps fresh in the fridge for app. 1 week, but it's best to cover the complete Pesto  surface tightly with cling film; alternatively cover the surface of the Pesto with a layer of olive oil;  put the Pesto into an airtight container. 
- In case pesto is frozen before use, do not stir in the cheese immediately, but cover the pesto with a layer of oil before freezing; mix in the cheese once the Pesto is thawed and ready for use. To divide the Pesto into smaller portions, fill the Pesto into an ice cube tray. Once frozen, remove from the tray and store in a freezer bag. This way the portions will stay separated inside the bag and can be removed individually. Alternatively use special ice cube freezer bags. 
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