We all know it and we all love it, pesto is healthy and delicious. I recently made fresh spaghetti and fresh pesto with grilled chicken for 25 people. I just wanted to serve something unctuous and simple with no stress…turned out perfect. (Probably cause I grilled the chicken before I started drinking) :-|
During the party, I came to find out that pesto has a bit of mystery to it. Since I’ve been cooking for 15 years it’s easy to forget what is common knowledge and what isn’t. I thought pesto was so old school, that not only did everyone know how to make it…but they were probably bored with it as well. As it turns out, most people don’t know how to make it, and absolutely no one is bored with it. Most everyone knew the basics of pesto but they usually forget one or two ingredients. Which is normal with food and thats why we have recipes to fall back on. So here is a basic pesto that you can use to wow your friends and impress your clients. Fresh pasta will make it better…just sayin’.
2c packed basil leaves
1T toasted pine nuts
1-2 cloves garlic
4T grated parmesano reggiano
1c extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
*pinch of fresh nutmeg and cayenne are very optional but quite nice
A couple ways to do this. One way is to throw everything into a blender or food processor and purée…done. However, if dark green/brown is not the color of your ideal pesto, another step is needed; blanching the greens.
Bring a quart of water to a boil and add a couple teaspoons of salt, then prepare an ice bath (bowl of ice water). Throw in the basil and optional spinach to cook for 20-30 seconds. Strain off the water and quickly submerge the wilted greens into the ice bath. Stir to dissipate the heat and let chill for a moment. Strain away the ice water and wring out the greens of excess water. This can be done with your bare hands or, by wrapping the greens in a towel. This blanching step releases, then locks in the chlorophyll ensuring that your pesto keeps a vibrant green color. Now make your your pesto as stated above. It helps to minced the garlic first, or have it be the first thing you grind in the processor.
Other tips are to keep things cool; letting the nuts cool after toasting before use. Purée everything except the greens first, then when any heat from the friction of grinding has cooled…purée in the greens. Easy peasy.