Any person who has tasted pesto in Italy will tell you that it just doesn’t taste the same elsewhere in the world. If you dig further to find the reason behind this you will be surprised to know that the answer lies in chopping of the ingredients that go into the making of pesto. Pesto is the Italian word for sauce. This sauce owes its origin to Genoa that is situated in the Liguria region of northern Italy.
Traditionally, pesto is prepared using fresh basil leaves, minced garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and Parmigiano Reggiano. Sometimes it may contain an additional ingredient – Fiore Sardo. Pesto actually refers to the procedure using which the sauce is prepared. All the ingredients are crushed in a marble mortar and wooden pestle to make the sauce. No electric blender is used for combining the ingredients. The original method of preparation involves pounding (as opposed to grounding) the ingredients.
With mortar and pestle fast disappearing in modern homes today, you don’t have to worry about not being able to make and taste the original pesto sauce. Instead of pounding the ingredients, chop them by hand and then blend them. This is essential for preventing the ingredients from forming a paste like emulsion. Pesto is not a sauce in the literal sense because in a pesto one should be able to distinctly taste all the ingredients.
This is unlike in a sauce where all the ingredients are combined to give a unique and different taste. You should be able to taste the olive oil in a pesto as well as basil leaves. When you top your pasta with pesto you will realize the difference hand chopping makes. All the ingredients will be easily distinguishable giving the pasta a superior taste.
Preparation Time: 15-20 minutes
Basil leaves, washed and dried – 2 cups
Garlic, peeled and crushed – 2 tablespoons
3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Raw pine nuts – ¼ cup
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated – ¾ cup
A wooden chopping board
A sharp and large knife for chopping (preferably mezzaluna)
Method Of Preparation
1. Place the garlic along with a few basil leaves on the wooden chopping board and begin the chopping. Keep adding more basil as and when you finish with one lot of the leaves. Keep gathering the ingredients as you chop them. Once you are through with chopping basil and garlic, you will notice that they have been chopped to a very fine degree.
2. Now add a handful of pine nuts to the mixture and begin chopping the nuts as well. Add the rest of the pine nuts and continue chopping till you have a fine mixture on your hands.
3. Add freshly grated parmesan cheese to the mixture and chop this as well. When everything has been finely chopped, you will have a mixture that can be easily gathered into the form of a cake.
4. Take a small sized bowl and wash it well. Dry the bowl. Transfer the basil ‘cake’ from the wooden board into the bowl. Pour three to four tablespoons of olive oil over the chopped mixture.
5. The pesto is ready. Refrigerate the pesto sauce until further use.
1. Before using the pesto sauce, use a wooden spoon to blend in olive oil with the sauce.
2. To use pesto for pasta, thin the sauce by adding a small amount of water.
Photo Credit: Sweetvalleyherbs.ca/mikes-ultimate-garlic-basil-paste-thanks-for-sharing-this-recipe