Category Archives: Out of the Dirt

pesto party


My basil crop has been crazy this year. I keep cutting it down and it keeps growing back. Visiting friends keep asking what this big four foot "hedge" is, not even realizing basil can grow so tall and vigorously!

Today's harvest resulted in 48 servings of pesto that I've frozen in ice cube trays. It smells so good. Although I grew up with my mother and my grandmother making a family recipe that was passed down through the generations, when I started making pesto on my own I never thought to ask for the recipe. (What a dumb way to be rebellious!) Instead I've always used Marcella Hazan's from her "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" and I still think it's the best I've come across. She has two versions–the classic mortar method (which is definitely superior but not practical when I have such massive quantities of basil to get through) and the food processor method.

Marcella Hazan's Pesto by the Food Processor Method

(for 6 servings – 1 ½ pounds of pasta)

For the processor:
2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons pine nuts

2 garlic cloves, chopped fine before putting in the processor

Salt

For completion by hand:
½ cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

2 tablespoons fresh grated romano cheese

3 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature

1. Briefly soak and wash the basil in cold water and gently pat it thoroughly dry with paper towels.

2. Put the basil, olive oil, pine nuts, chopped garlic and an ample
pinch of salt in the processor bowl, and process to a uniform, creamy
consistency.

3. Transfer to a bowl, and mix in the two grated cheeses by hand.
It is worth the slight effort to do it by hand to obtain the noticeably
superior texture it produces. When the cheese has been evenly
amalgamated with the other ingredients, mix in the softened butter,
distributing it uniformly into the sauce.

4. When spooning the pesto over pasta, dilute it slightly with a tablespoon or two of hot water in which the pasta was cooked.

Freezing pesto:
Make the sauce by the food processor method through to the end of Step 2, and freeze it without cheese and butter in it. Add the cheese and butter when it is thawed, just before using.