This perennial summer favorite finds roots in Ancient Rome. While the Italians technically invented the recipe, we have the Indians to thank for adding its noted staple ingredient — basil. The word “pesto” is derived from the Genovese “pestâ,” meaning “to pound, to crush”, referring to the sauce’s original method of preparation—via mortar and pestle.
Fast-forward to the '80s and '90s: Baby Boomer yuppies across North America indulged in a certain green pasta sauce, touting its chic-ness. Only this time, they made pesto with a food processor.
Now I have no idea where this particular recipe came from, but it’s been in my family for years. And I’m doing something naughty: I’m giving you the directions.
Here’s what you need:
-A food processor (It can work with a blender, but it doesn’t blend as evenly. Definitely worth getting your hands on a food processor if you don’t already have one.)
-I cup (or slightly more) firmly packed fresh basil (green)
-4+ cloves of garlic (crushed)
-1/2 tablespoon of freshly chopped white onion (optional)
-1/4 cup pine nuts
-2/3 cup grated/shredded Parmesan cheese
-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
-1 teaspoon salt
-Ground black pepper (for taste)
-Hot pepper flakes (1-2 quick shakes; optional)
-1 pound of pasta (I like farfalle or cavatappi or ravioli or gnocchi, but fettuccine or linguine also works. And if you’re not doing pasta, you can always use it as a spread for tons of other things. It pretty much goes with everything.)
Here’s how you do it:
Rinse basil. Pluck all leaves from the stalks and put into the food processor. (Throw away stalks.) Add crushed garlic, onion, pine nuts, Parmesan, salt, and pepper(s). Pulse a couple of times on the food processor.
Now here’s the secret: Drizzle about a teaspoon or so of boiling hot water (from the pasta pot) through the food processor’s chimney while pressing pulse. It makes everything gel, so to speak.