Basil Pesto a’la Papa Don Calarco
Once you start making your own Pesto, you will use it on all your best recipes.
If you ever wondered what that aroma was in Frex’s Cafe (we never called it a smell),
it was the pesto. They put it in and on everything.
Very easy to prepare. You’ll want to make a batch at least once every week.
That is, if you enjoy cooking as much as I do.
OK, let’s get started:
– About ten or twelve full stems of Fresh basil with lots of leaves. Fresh means you can
smell it from eight feet away. When you are done stripping them down, there shoul be
about 2 cups or more.
– 3 cloves of garlic. Fresh Fresh. No Freeze dried, no old grumpy garlic. Fresh means
moist aromatic garlic. Peeled and washed. Slice the cloves into several pieces.
– 1/4 cup of Pine nuts, washed and rinsed
– Virgin Olive Oil. You’ll need 2/3 to 1/2 cup, or more.
– 1/2 cup of Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese grated
– Coarse Sea Salt in a grinder
– Freshly ground black pepper
Preparing the leaves correctly is very important. Don’t wash the basil until you have stripped the leaves of all traces of stem. Grab a cluster of leaves just above the base of base of the leaves in one hand and tear the leaves off and place them in a bowl. There should be no part of the stem remaining on the leaves. Strip all the leaves, toss the stems and rinse the basil leaves thoroughly. If you have a lettuce spinner, spin them dry. If not, pat them dry with paper towels.
You should have enough leaves to fill both your hands (no, my hands – big hands) like you would hold a baseball with both hands. That should be enough for one batch.
Compress the leaves on a cutting board and make a few slices to start the chopping process, cutting length-wise, then turning and cutting again.
Please the basil in a food processor. If it is large enough this will all be done in one step. If you have a small single blade processor, you may want to do this in batches.
Add the Pine nuts to the basil and run the processor in slow until the nuts are crushed, leaving no chunks or whole pieces. Add more basil until all the basil and nuts have been blended.
Add the garlic and process until the garlic is chopped into very small pieces.
Add the Olive Oil and process slowly. We don’t want to make basil soup. We just want to blend.
Smell the mixture. It should have a strong garlic and basil aroma.
Transfer the mixture to a ball jar and be sure to get it all. This Italian Gold. Don’t miss any.
Pour enough olive oil to cover the mixture with about 1/4 inch of oil.
Put it in the refrigerator. Keep it covered. It will stay fresh for about 10 days.
Note: Air is the enemy of pesto. Don’t let it dry. After you spoon out some, refresh the oil by topping it off.
There will be dozens of recipes that call for olive oil, and garlic….use the pesto!
Oh, don’t expect to eat it straight off a spoon. It will be strong and the aroma will stay with you for ever. Cook with it, and be a hero.
Too much is never enough!
PS: Save us a page… Parsley Pesto? Same as above, just change the leaves to Parsley.