Pesto should be made to your liking – there’s no one, classic recipe for pesto, once you’ve made it a few times, you’ll know how to make it to your taste.
That said, you will need the following :
- Fresh basil – a decent sized bunch
- A couple of cloves of garlic
- Pine nuts – I used 100g
- A decent block of Parmesan
- 100g of Pecorino
- A decent olive oil and the best quality extra-virgin olive oil you can get
- A lemon.
First thing to do is to blanch the basil. Do this in boiling water for around 10 seconds and remove with a slotted spoon. Blanching the basil will intensify the green colour of the basil once mixed into the pesto and will help make the pesto smooth and silky. Once cooled, the basil should be squeezed to remove most of the water.
Once you have blanched the basil, cook the garlic in the same water for half a minute. This will soften the taste and texture of the garlic.
In a hot, dry pan add the pine nuts. Keep an eye on them – they only need a while in there – you should shake the pan regularly to make sure they don’t burn. As soon as they take on a slight colour, take them off the heat.
Add the basil, garlic and half the pine nuts to a bowl and add a handful of grated Parmesan and all the Pecorino.
Add a good few glugs of the standard olive oil – maybe half a cup.
Using a hand-held processor, whizz the ingredients until they are incorporated into the oil.
Don’t whizz them too much as you will need to process them further and you don’t want the pesto to be totally smooth (or at least I don’t).
Give it a squeeze of lemon – not much though, it’s only add to add a slight twang but it mustn’t overpower the other flavours.
Now add a tablespoon of your good extra-virgin olive oil.
Whizz it again with your processor and give it a taste.
It’s at this point that your own personal taste should dictate the direction the pesto takes. Me, I like to really taste the pine nuts and olive oil so I add more pine nuts and finish with more good quality oil. Always hold back a bit of each ingredient to allow you to fine tune – tasting all the time. Don’t be scared to add more olive oil than you think is normal.
Spoon the pesto into cooked pasta. When you boil your pasta, cook it in the same water you used to blanch the basil and garlic.
The pesto will freeze well for a few weeks and keep in the fridge for the best part of a week.
By John Loydall