Monday, August 01, 2011

Pesto Genovese - a Compilation of Hundreds of Ways

I give. I have no idea as to how to make pesto. Like chile con carne there are as many recipes as there are cooks. I read some on the internet and then read some more. All are very very nice, but none gives the ingredients by weight. And I think that's the most important characteristic of this recipe; to have the correct balance of flavors.

Here is a pix of the bag of basil I was handed.

The bag of basil weighed 20 ounces before the stems were removed. After 'cleaning' the bag weighed 12 ounces.

All the recipes I could read on the 'net called for "2 cups firmly packed basil leaves". I packed a 2 cup Pyrex glass measuring cup as "firmly" as I could. I next removed those leaves and weighed them. That was to be 2 ounces of fresh, dry, basil.  Ahhh . . . before I go any further, let me give you the "standard" pesto Genovese ingredient list:

2 cups basil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbs. pine nuts
2 cloves of garlic
salt to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (aka Parmesan)
2 tbs. finely grated Romano (aka Pecorino Romano)
3 tbs. butter at room temperature

I had 12 ounces of basil, and that's 6 cups. And it looked like that much, too. Now, in some of my readings, I see an additional ingredient of either mint or parsley with the basil. I got some fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley for this recipe. So, my ingredient list reads like this:

12 ounces of basil leaves, dry, de-stemmed
18 tbs. pine nuts, toasted
3 tsp. garlic (I used more, maybe 1 1/2 tbs.)
3 cups of Parmesan cheese
12 tbs. of Romano cheese
6 tbs. of parsley (28 grams or 1 ounce, de-stemmed, leaves only)
6 tbs. of butter
2 tsp. salt

I was on a time dead-line today and didn't measure the weight of the cheeses. I believe that parmesan and romano are supposed to weigh 5 ozs. per cup. I think this is pretty accurate, if you are counting. I will post those next time and make only the 2 cup recipe. 

Lots of recipe givers say use a mortar. As my arm is sore from thinking about all the pounding, and as one guy suggests the blender because he likes the texture better, I say: choose your weapons. I'm sticking with my food processor.

So, into the food proc. went the parsley, de-stemmed. Next the basil leaves a few at a time. A good handful or two at a time. Once that was all reduced to almost a pulp, I added the salt and garlic. I use chopped garlic from the market. It's faster. That got processed into the mix. Next the toasted pine nuts. Next came the cheeses. Once they were incorporated I added the butter. I had a 1/4 pound stick of butter with 1 tbs. already used, so I tossed the whole 7 tbs. left into the bowl. (Dear Reader - Notice My Stylish Food Flexibility Here). Technically, I should have used 1/4 pound stick and 1 tbs. more, but I was too lazy to get another tablespoon of butter. After the butter was whirled around the processor bowl, I drizzled in the olive oil.

I want to make a big point about the olive oil. I (forever forward) ignore the recipes that specify a certain amount of oil. I want my pesto to be thick and I can always add a little more oil if the particular dish seems to need it. Otherwise, I dribbled into the spinning bowl of greenness about 1 cup or 1 1/4 cup of oil in total. Notice the flexibility, again.

All told, I think I got about 4 cups of pesto. I covered both jars with a little olive oil, froze the one and am going to make some pesto dish this coming week and then re-cover the pesto with more oil and freeze it until needed. I know some writers about this say NO to freezing and some say freeze before adding the butter and nuts, but I'm going to do this my way. So, if your Italian or Italian forebears are your family lineage, read someone else's Pesto Genovese recipe, please.