from one generation to the next
In my home town, the word “pesto” has been adopted by the food industry as the catchphrase that describes a chunky textured dip that is made from herbs or vegetables and nuts. There is coriander pesto with cashews and sundried tomato pesto also with cashews, but for pedantic purists like me it can only mean a delicious combination of fresh basil, garlic and pine nuts, best made toward the end of summer when the basil becomes a bit woody and its strength of flavour increases. Avoid hydrponically grown basil if possible, it is full of water which reduces the peppery flavour. Because the basil quickly oxidises with contact with the air it is important to move quickly and cover the surface of the pesto to be stored with a slick of olive oil. Fresh pesto freezes well to prolong its shelf life.
The ways to enjoy pesto are endless. Pasta with pesto is its classic use, but I dress potato salad with pesto, I use it as a sandwich spread topped with sweet juicy tomato, I coat chicken strips with pesto before pan frying, I drizzle it on pizza and I enjoy a dollop in a bowl of minestrone.
1 large bunch fresh basil, approx 100g leaves when stripped from the stem
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
50g pine nuts, toasted if you like
Extra virgin olive oil, around ¼ cup
50 g grated parmesan cheese
Juice half a lemon
Making pesto is not an exact science, your palate should decide the amount of seasoning you use.
Strip the basil leaves from their stems, wash thoroughly and dry well. (I use a salad spinner).
Into the jug of your food processor, place the garlic and pine nuts, pulse until finely chopped.
Add the basil leaves and again, process until finely chopped.
With the motor running, pour the olive oil into the processor in a fine stream until you have added enough to create a whipped cream consistency.
Transfer the basil mixture to a bowl, stir in the cheese, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Depending on the quality of the basil, a little lemon juice can make the difference between pesto that is OK and pesto that is great.
Scrape the pesto into small lidded containers, pour a little olive oil over the surface to protect it from the air then either freeze or refrigerate.