I don’t remember the first time I had pesto, but it is one of my favorite things to add to any food.
Pasta. Salmon. Shrimp. Toast. Eggs. Chips dipped directly into it. Pesto makes everything better. It’s also pretty much an entire spinach salad in every few spoons, which is how I help justify how quickly I can consume it compared to the amount of cheese and oil it contains.
I clearly recall having it at the appropriately-named Ristorante Pesto on Broad Street as a teenager, but that seems like such a late point in life to have tasted pesto for the first time.
Thus, while I wish I could say this is an old family recipe, it’s not – it’s just adapted from The Better Homes and Gardens cookbook over the course of dozens of trials over the course of the past decade. It used to be that E made it and then I just greedily consumed it. Finally, I became impatient about waiting for her to decide she felt like making pesto and so I made it myself and realized it is so easy to do (as long as you have a decent food processor).
Now I make double and triple batches every time so I can enjoy as much pesto as I want on my pasta and everything else.
Here is the ingredient list for an 8oz batch of pesto, which is probably enough to toss with for pasta for four. I use the alterations in parenthesis every time, but they make things more complex – you’ll do just fine ignoring them your first time.
- 1 & 1/2 cups baby spinach, tightly packed
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, tightly packed
- 1/4 cup grated romano cheese (or, split evenly w/parmesan)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts (or, split evenly with slivered almonds)
- 1 tablespoon of minced garlic (I use jarred; if fresh, use up to 3 cloves adding gradually and tasting)
- optional pinch of salt (very little – less than 1/16 of a teaspoon)
Honestly, if you just throw that all into a food processor with no rhyme or reason you’d still wind up with good pesto.
For those of you who like a little more specificity to your recipes than that:
- add ingredients from the bottom up except for the salt and half of each the oil and the garlic
- give your food processor several light three-second pulses with each addition
- your goal is for the nuts to be a paste before getting to the greens
- add the remainder of the oil along with the spinach; your goal is for the spinach to not be liquified
- tasted your handiwork; add the remaining garlic and optional salt to taste
The flavors should be relatively balanced, but these are all ingredients that can vary with each purchase. If the garlic note isn’t overpowering, add your remainder. If it’s not cheesy enough, add more cheese. If it’s not “wet” enough, try more pine nuts before adding more oil. If it’s not enough of any taste, add more basil and the pinch of salt. If it’s too much every taste, try adding a handful more spinach to neutralize.
Toss fresh with pasta or store for up to a week in the refrigerator. If you make a large batch, freeze your extra pesto in ice cube trays – it will store in the freezer indefinitely. Microwave for 20-30 seconds to make it into a spreadable paste again.
And now, for my annotated ingredient list, from bottom to top. [Read more…] about My Best Pesto