Friday, August 22, 2008

Pesto . . . Same As It Ever Was

My name is Basil. I failed miserably as an English hotelier.
Pesto is my natural vocation.

We never made it to Liguria during this trip to Italy, but on our first visit in 1990 (before we had children), we stayed a few nights in the region of pesto. The decade of pesto had just come to a close, and the pesto backlash was on the horizon. Many of us may associate the green sauce with the 80s (along with big hair and shoulder pads, two trends I followed diligently). Food fads hit the U.S. with a force that (I presume) misses other cultures. Remember when most menus were overloaded with sun-dried tomatoes? Or when cooks seemed unable to prepare fish without “blackening” it? I guess the current food trend, hitting its crest, is chipotle. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

I rode the pesto wave in the 80s, and then I (along with many others) reached a saturation point. We found pesto on our pizza, our sandwiches, our fish, and our chicken. We forgot the all important motto: “moderation in all things.” Our excessive deployment of pesto was unfair to the mighty basil plant and its magical, heady properties. I learned my lessons. Pesto should never come in a jar. Pesto works best with al dente pasta (I always use De Cecco brand). Pesto deserves to be made at home.

After a few years apart, Pesto and I got back together. When your basil is thriving in the dog days of summer, pesto must be made. And despite the derivation of its name (from pestle), I use a food processor.


2 Cups of Basil Leaves (neither loose nor packed)

1 clove of garlic, peeled (many people add much more)

½ Cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Handful of toasted pine nuts

Coarse salt and ground pepper to taste

Extra-virgin olive oil

In a food processor, chop the basil, garlic, and pine nuts until fine. Add salt and pepper. Stir in cheese and add enough oil until it’s the right consistency. Serve with your favorite pasta.

Put on some Talking Heads, don your artfully-cut sweat shirt, and dig in.


Mary Louisa said...

Mmmmmm. Will you EVER stop making sense?

My backyard basil plants' current vocation is insalata Caprese. I haven't yet found the energy to haul out the processor for pesto.

Keep up the good work, "ncfoodie," which I suspect is not your real name.

ncfoodie said...

If I had to haul it out, I'd never use the processor either. It sits on the counter now.
"Ncfoodie" is my street name, but my peeps call me "foo."