Traditional pestos were made using a mortar and pestle. Cooks would start by placing the nuts and garlic in first and grinding/pounding it down to a cream before adding the basil and other ingredients. In fact, pesto got its name from the Italian word pestare, which means to pound, crush. Nowadays, only the most devout cooks still use a mortar and pestle and choose to instead grind the ingredients together in a food processor.
This recipe is an adaptation to a traditional pesto alla genovese which is made from basil, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and salt. However, I find pine nuts to be obnoxiously expensive and lacking in texture in the final product. Thus, I’ve replaced them with walnuts which I find provide a nuttier flavor and an additional texture.
Ingredients (makes about 3 cups)
- 1 bunch of basil (about 18 cups loosely packed)
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 c walnuts
- 1 c parmesan cheese
- extra virgin olive oil
1. When you have this many basil leaves, you will have to make this in batches. Pick the basil leaves off the stem. While the stems are edible, I find the texture to be bit fibrous.
2. Place half the leaves in a food processor. Turn on until the leaves are chopped, but not minced. Add half the walnuts and garlic cloves. Pulse several times until these are chopped down. Add half the cheese and pulse three or four times until combined.
3. With the food processor running, slowly pour olive oil into the mixture. It will begin to form a paste and will lighten as you put more in. How much you pour in is completely up to you. I go by color. When it reaches a green that I like, I stop. Remember, you can always add more, but if you add too much, you can’t take it away.
4. Taste the pesto and season with salt and pepper. Add more olive oil if necessary. Pulse to incorporate the seasoning into the sauce.
5. Chill in the refrigerator for at least four hours. Let come to room temperature before using. This a versatile sauce that can be placed on chicken, pork, or pasta. You can also use it as a marinade or to brighten up rice. This will make plenty, so you can experiment. This recipe will keep fresh for about two weeks or you freeze it for later use.