I gave away a complete basil bush on Saturday. I took a pair of scissors, cut off the plant, and handed the bush to my friend. This way I could make sure that my babies, whom I took care of for so long, would be honored and enjoyed with full devotion. And, most importantly, that we did not have to drown in pesto.
However, that would not be the worst thing that could happen to someone. Just think about it: smooth olive oil all over our bodies, and the basil with all its fantastic ingredients would be quite healthy. Well, drowning is everything else but healthy, that’s for sure. Nevertheless, our skin would look fantastic.
You’ve probably noticed that I have a little self-created luxury issue here. It could have been clear to me, but that goes for a lot more. True to the motto: Afterwards one is always smarter. In January I started planting herbs and vegetables in our house. The tomatoes and eggplants have been growing amazingly fast and have pleased us with their small, delicate leaves at the end of winter. Parsley and basil were a bit more reserved and I was a little disappointed. What does the inexperienced gardener (me) do? Exactly: go to the garden center and buy young plants. So I had a beautiful, bought basil bush and six very small plants that did not really get around to grow properly.
One month later, I still had a beautiful, bought basil bush and no less than six homegrown basil monsters. Once my little plants had started to grow, they just could not find an end. This brings us to the very abundance and, even though it’s already fall, a rich harvest of this wonderfully aromatic herb.
But who am I trying to fool? I’m terribly proud and enjoy everything I can do with it: give it away as a bush, flavor oils, enchant sweet pastry, add flavor to water, make tomatoes and mozzarella even more delicious … and, as already mentioned, start a pesto mass production. Even though I’m complaining about it, I love it so much that I probably will never get tired of this salty-fresh herbal sauce. And because I like it so much and I just cook it constantly right now, I want to share my recipe for the Italian classic “Pesto alla Genovese” with you!
Pesto alla Genovese
- 2 bunch of basil
- 2 oz walnuts / pine nuts
- 3 oz parmesan
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 3 fl oz olive oil
- salt + pepper
- Step 1 Peel the garlic cloves, chop them finely and set aside. If you want to avoid garlicky hands, I recommend using disposable gloves. Heat a pan and roast nuts of your choice. You do not need additional oil because nuts contain sufficient natural oils. As soon as a beguiling scent rises, put the nuts on a cutting board, let them cool briefly and chop them with a large knife. Grate the Parmesan and remember: a small piece of cheese should be left over. On the one hand, to eat some of it (after all, you’ve done some hard work already, so you deserve it) and on the other hand, it’s important to have more for the Pasta con Pesto alla Genovese. Can you have too much parmesan on a pasta dish? I don’t think so!
- Step 2 Set up all ingredients (except the basil), salt, pepper and olive oil at one spot. It is best to place the blender directly next to them (or just flip it over: position all ingredients next to the blender, depending on your kitchen setup). Now start to separate the basil from its stems and slice it. If this delicate herb is exposed to air for a longer time, it oxidizes. And nobody wants that! Another way to prevent the ugly brown spots would be to mix the minced basil with lemon juice. Since I want to avoid the citrus taste in my pesto (as much as I like it otherwise), I go for the first method: the timely cutting.
- Step 3 From that moment on, your pesto is almost ready. Combine one third of basil, parmesan, garlic, nuts and one quarter of the olive oil in a tall container and blend carefully with a mixer. Season with salt and pepper. Add the next third or quarter of the ingredients, mix, season, mix, season. If the mixture is too dense, add an extra shot of olive oil. Please do not mix too long or too much. The developing heat is bad for the aroma and too much mixing makes the whole thing too fine. You would end up with a nice green sauce, but no pesto! Once you have reached the perfect, crumbly and oily consistency, pour the pesto into a glass and cover it with the last quarter of the olive oil. It will last for one to two weeks in the fridge.
- Step 4 In Italy the pasta for pesto is often cooked with a potato cut in small pieces. The starch of the potato thickens the cooking water. Collect about a cup before draining the pasta. Mix noodles with potatoes, pesto and cooking water, grate a huge amount of parmesan over it and enjoy. This is the way Italy tastes for me: fresh, tart and super delicious!
Fun fact: Of course you can prepare your Pesto in a mortar, that’s the more than classy way and actually it’s justifying the name. Pesto comes from the Italian word “pestare” which means “crushing”. I tried it and it ended in a huge mess. This was probably due to the size of our mortar (coffee cup size). After this disaster, I researched a little and found out that head chefs and even Italian Mammas are now using the electric blender for their Pesti (Italian plural for Pesto). A real relief for me and my kitchen floor!