. Difficulty: Easy
. Serves: 5 people
. Preparation time: 15 minutes
DescriptionMakes about ¾ cup, enough to dress 1 pound cooked pasta
Ingredients4 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, gently washed and dried
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano
2 tablespoons freshly grated Grana Padano
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
PreparationTo make the pesto in a mortar: Place a few basil leaves in the bottom of a mortar, and sprinkle the salt over them. Crush the leaves coarsely with the pestle, add a few more leaves, and continue crushing, adding new leaves each time those in the mortar are crushed, until all the leaves are coarsely ground. Toss in the garlic, and pound until the mixture forms a smooth paste. Add the pine nuts, and grind them to a paste. Stir in the cheese, then enough of the olive oil to give the pesto a creamy consistency.
To make the pesto in a food processor: Combine the basil, salt, and garlic in the work bowl, add 2 tablespoons of the oil, and blend at low speed, stopping frequently to press the basil down around the blades, until the basil forms a coarse paste. Toss in the pine nuts, and pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Blend until the pine nuts are finely ground. Stir in the grated cheeses.
Pesto is at its best when used immediately after it is made, though it can be refrigerated for up to a few weeks if it’s spooned into a container, topped with olive oil, and sealed tightly to minimize oxidation. If you find yourself with an abundance of basil in the summer, make some pesto and store it in jars or containers, in portions, in the freezer, where it will last for several months.
To serve: Toss the pesto with the cooked drained pasta, adding a few spoons of the pasta-cooking water. Pesto should not be heated or cooked, because it loses its fragrance.