Many of you may not know, but I’m half Italian and grew up living in various Italian cities. For this reason, I’m always hesitant to dine out at Italian restaurants in America, because it’s rarely anything remotely close to what the original recipe really is. I always feel bad having to break the news to Americans that their most coveted Italian dish (Chicken Alfredo) is merely an American concoction that doesn’t exist in Italy.
When it comes to pesto, the secret is in the preparation. If you’ve ever actually been to Italy and had a chance to taste the pesto there, you will notice right away that it’s vastly different from the Americanized counterpart you find here in the U.S. at restaurants or sold in jars at stores. First of all, the real meaning of “pesto” in Italian is to “grind/smash.” That means in the original Italian recipe you DO NOT use a food processor or hand blender to get the ingredients to become a paste. Rather, you place all the ingredients in a mortar bowl and grind them using a pestle (see photo for example). This method requires you to manually grind all the ingredients together till it becomes a texturized paste.
This may take you between 20-25 mins. I know many of us lead very busy lives and may find this takes too long and wish to skip this step and use a food processor, but if you truly want to experience an authentic Italian pesto, you must take the long way! The beauty of this though is, that you can make extra and freeze what you won’t be using, to be consumed at a later date. So pretty much it’s a far more invigorating and delicious meal prep trick!
1 Large bunch of basil leaves (about 30 leaves washed & dried)
1-2 Tablespoons of Raw Pine Nuts (I love pine nuts so usually go with 2)
3 Medium cloves of garlic
2 Tablespoon of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 Tablespoon of freshly grated Peccorino Romano cheese
3 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
A pinch of salt
Begin by chopping up the garlic cloves in four squares and cutting the basil leaves in half (if they’re too large). Once you’re done with this, place both of them in a mortar dish and using the pestle begin to grind and smash them. Do this until they’re completely minced. At this point, add the pine nuts (you may wish to chop the pine nuts if you want to speed up the process first) and using the pestle, mince them along with the first two ingredients. Now you add half of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to the mortar and grind and then add the other half. Repeat these steps for the Peccorino Romano cheese as well. Using the pestle, grind till all the ingredients are minced in a paste-like manner. Once you’re satisfied with the consistency, then you add the olive oil and salt to the mortar and using a teaspoon stir all the ingredients together. And you’re done!
Depending on how much pesto you use, this amount can be used for up to 3 dishes of pasta.
This is a very nutritious and delicious recipe that it’s hard not to love!
You can use any kind of pasta for pesto, below I chose to make it with orecchiette pasta because they’re one of my faves, but you can also use spaghetti or zitti if you prefer!
By: Azzurra Nox