– Travel Food & Wine
A well-made pesto is a thing of beauty: Fresh, green, cheesy, and nutty, this no-cook sauce has it all, and goes with just about everything.
Slather thick pesto on good bread, toss a thinner version with pasta, use it as a crudité dip, or, heck, just eat it with a spoon. Our team sure knows a thing or two about how to take your version from “neh” to “more, please.” Here’s their best advice for making a knockout pesto.
WORK THOSE MUSCLES BABY !
Traditionally, a mortar and pestle is used to make the sauce. The crushing action of the mortar and pestle produces a more intense flavor than the chopping action of a food processor. The tender greens get bruised and banged-up, and the nuts release too many oils, turning to nut butter rather than a pleasantly chunky sauce. When using a food processor, you can simulate the additional flavor given by the mortar and pestle method by placing the basil leaves in a plastic bag and crushing them with a rubber mallet or rolling pin prior to use.Use a knife to do initial rough chops of all of your ingredients, and rely on the processor to merely mix together the greens, nuts, and olive oil.
It’s up to you if you want to use Pecorino Romano or classic Parmesan, but there is one rule you must follow: Pestos need hard, salty, aged cheeses. Creamy fresh fromage, like chèvre, doesn’t combine well, and makes for a gloopy sauce.Good quality Parmesan cheese may replace the Pecorino for a milder taste. Crumbled feta cheese also works well for a different taste.Grate it on the fine edge of a box grater, or with a Microplane, and mix it in by hand once everything else has been combined. Besides, a pesto should be a little chunky, not uniformly smooth. A little texture is key.
Great. We love garlic too, but are not big fans of biting into a big chunk of it (especially if it’s raw). That’s why we turn the garlic into a paste before adding it to our pesto. To do this, mince the garlic then use the flat side of a knife to scrape the garlic across a cutting board.Just be sure that the amount of garlic you’re using doesn’t overpower the rest of the sauce. You should be able to taste every element of the pesto, from the greens to the olive oil and nuts. Start with a small amount of garlic, and add more if the sauce needs a little zip. Remember: You can always add more, but you can’t take any out.
DON’T BE PARTIAL TO BASIL
We love the fresh, sweet taste of basil, and when our plants explode with the stuff all summer long, it’s tempting to use it in batch after batch of pesto. But why should basil have all the fun, when there are so many other herbs and greens having their moment in the garden? Parsley and cilantro are great substitutes for the classic, as are arugula and kale. A little mix-and-match is always a good idea, but that said, don’t go crazy with all strong flavors. Spicy arugula, bitter kale, and anise-flavored tarragon shouldn’t all be in the same pesto. Choose one big, bold flavor, and fill out the rest with something milder, like parsley. Follow this rule of thumb: If you can eat it in a salad, you can probably use it to make a pesto.
NOT SO RAW
Just because pesto is technically a no-cook sauce doesn’t mean you’re off the hook entirely. For a truly dynamo pesto with tons of flavor, you must (must!) roast the nuts before using them in a pesto. Cool them completely before processing, or they’ll turn into a gummy paste.
A LITTLE DIRT NEVER HURT ANYONE
… Right? Hold it right there. There’s nothing worse than a sandy pasta sauce!. Whatever greens you’re using, be sure to rinse them under cool water (warm water will wilt them), then thoroughly pat them dry with a clean tea towel, or, better yet, use a salad spinner.
PESTO = LOW FAT
We applaud efforts for cleaner, lighter eating (we even do it ourselves, sometimes). But a pesto is no place for restraint. The point of a pesto is about plenty of olive oil, nuts, and cheese. The point of a pesto is, well, fat. Let pesto be its glorious, tasty self, and don’t even think about cutting it with water
LOVE IT, KEEP IT …
Pesto oxidizes, or turns brown when exposed to the air, quickly. Add a thin layer of extra olive oil to the top (to prevent any air from getting to it), cover with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.If freezing, leave out the cheese. Fill ice cube trays with pesto, freeze until hard. Then store frozen cubes in freezer-safe plastic bags. Freeze up to 1 month.
LETS GET NUTTY
Sure, there’s a lot to love about pine nuts, they are creamy buttery and also OH SO EXPENSIVE !A common change to the recipe is to replace some or all of the pine nuts with sunflower seeds, walnuts, pistachios, or almonds. This not only significantly reduces the cost of the sauce, but with so many other tasty nuts, it’s a great way to mix things up a bit. Kale is great with almonds, and sweet pecans would be a fine match for spicy arugula.
ITS GOTTA BE GREEN
Well especially if you are using green ingredients, right ?Blanching basil makes the greenest pesto possible. Have you ever noticed that pesto can brown overtime in the fridge? Or even when you add it to hot pasta? Blanching the pesto prevents this. It locks in the bright green color of the leaves. We blanch basil in our recipe below. If you are not convinced, you can still use the recipe without blanching. It still works. If you are up for it, blanching is easy. Dunk the basil leaves into boiling water for 5 to 10 seconds then submerge in ice water. Pat the leaves dry and move on to making the pesto.
You will need
- 4 cups packed basil, blanched briefly in boiling water and shocked in ice water
- 1⁄2cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1⁄2cup finely grated parmesan
- 1⁄4cup pine nuts
- 3 tbsp. finely grated pecorino
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- Coarse sea salt, to taste
Process basil, oil, parmesan, pine nuts, pecorino, and garlic in a food processor until smooth; season with salt.
Green Pesto Vegetable soup
You will need
For the soup
• 1 Small White Onion, chopped
• 2 Cups Zucchini, chopped (about one med. zucchini)
• 2-3 Large Stalks Celery, chopped
• Olive Oil, for sautéing
• 4 Cups Vegetable Stock
• 2 Cups Water
• ¼ Tsp Coriander
• Salt and Pepper to Taste
• 4 Cups Cooked Pasta
For the pesto
• Cup Cilantro
• Cup Parsley
• Cup Basil
• 3 Spring Onions
• ¼ Tsp Salt
• ½ Tsp Black Pepper
• Start by prepping the vegetables – chop the onion, zucchini, and celery.
• Bring a pot to medium heat with a little olive oil. Add chopped vegetables and sauté for 5-10 minutes, or until onions are translucent.
• Add in vegetable stock, water, coriander, and salt and pepper. Stir well.
• Then make the pesto – add all pesto ingredients to a mortar and pestle or food processor and make the pesto with guideline mentioned earlier. Add pesto to soup and stir well.
• Finally, add in cooked pasta – I used farfalle. If pasta isn’t your jam, feel free to add to add 2-3 cups cooked rice or any other grain, like millet or quinoa.
• Serve in bowls and garnish with fresh herbs (if desired).
Kale Pesto Pizza
Serves: 1 pizza
You will need
For Kale Pesto
- 2 garlic cloves
- 6 tbsp pine nuts
- 2 cups fresh basil
- 2 tsp dried basil
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup water
- 1 cup kale, stems removed
For the Pizza
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Kale pesto
- 1 ball store bought pizza dough
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
- 2 balls burrata cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh basil for garnish
- Preheat oven to 200°.
- Combine the kale pesto ingredients in a blender and pulse for at least 30 seconds or until everything is mixed together*; set aside.
- Sprinkle a cutting board or baking mat with flour and then use your hands and/or a rolling pin to roll the pizza dough out.
- Brush oil on the dough and then the kale pesto overtop of that.
- Top the pesto with tomatoes, salt, and pepper and transfer the pizza onto a baking sheet.
- Bake the pizza for 20 minutes and then add the burrata cheese. Cook the pizza for an additional 5-7 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese has melted.
- Remove from oven, cut and enjoy!
Fettuccine with Chicken, pesto & potato
You will need
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 1 onion finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic finely grated
• 2 roasted chicken drumsticks or thighs or whatever you’ve got – even use the stuffing!
• 1 roasted potato cubed or sliced
• ½ cup basil pesto (or as much as you like)
• Salt & black pepper to taste
• chilli flakes to garnish
• Parmesan cheese to garnish
• Put a large pot of water on to boil, for the pasta.
• While that is happening, either make your pesto or open your favourite jar of it.
• Heat a skillet over medium-high flame. Toss in the oil, followed by the onions and garlic. Sauté for about 5 minutes, or until soft
• It may be time to throw the pasta into the boiling water by now, but make sure you add plenty of salt when it boils.
• While that’s going, shred the left-over chicken straight into to cooking onion, followed by the roasted left-over potato. Stir for half a minute then turn off the heat.
• Drain the pasta, toss it straight onto the onion-chicken mixture, pour the pesto on top of the pasta and stir through.
• Taste it for seasoning, then serve