Our homemade Basil Pesto is served with lunch on our "Discover Italian Baking" Day. We've published the recipe by popular request from the students on the course!
This classic Italian accompaniment is easily made in either a pestle and mortar or even more easily in a mini food processor. If using the latter, add your basil leaves last since the blades will over process them if you put them in first and you’ll end up with a dark green sauce instead of the traditional rough texture of the classic pesto. With all ingredients, use the pulse function on the processor to maintain texture and avoid ending up with a smooth sauce.
This recipe uses rough and ready measures of the ingredients. Taste and adjust according to taste.
Use as a dip for grissini or breads, stir through pasta, or drizzle on top of your tomato base on a pizza. It’s also great as an accompaniment to baked or steamed fish or left over roast chicken.
Makes 1 Small Kilner jar
You will need:
1 handful of pine nuts (a standard
½ a peeled clove of garlic
1 large handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (if you’re using a food processor you can simply cut the parmesan into chunks before adding)
Extra virgin olive oil
3 good handfuls of fresh basil (or two large pots of living basil from the supermarket) leaves picked and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice (to taste)
1. Use a small dry frying pan to lightly toast the pine nuts. (Watch them like a hawk as they will colour and burn very quickly which should be avoided. Toast them only long enough to release the natural oils. As soon as you start to smell their nutty aroma give them a couple of shakes in the pan and then take them off the heat. The aim is to maintain their natural creamy colour.)
2. Tip the toasted nuts into your pestle and mortar or food processor with the garlic and a small pinch of salt and pound or pulse briefly. (Don’t overdo the pounding/pulsing at this stage since you will be adding more ingredients and repeating this again as you go.)
3. Add half the Parmesan and pound/blitz briefly.
4. Stir gently and add a small amount of olive oil –just enough to loosen the ingredients.
5. Add the remaining cheese and pulse again.
6. Add your basil leaves and pulse until incorporated (you may have to do this gradually in batches if you have a very mini food processor)
7. Season with black pepper.
8. Add more oil until you achieve the consistency you desire.
9. Add a quick squeeze of lemon juice and give it all a final blitz.
10. Taste and add a bit more of any of the ingredients until you are happy with the taste and consistency.
Pesto will happily keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for a few days.