Locavore Basil With Soul
Basil is in season. Grab it while you can.
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.
Toss with pasta. Serve hot.