Posts Tagged ‘parmesan cheese’

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.


I was jonesing for pizza today, but didn’t have any shredded cheese or red sauce. What I did have, however, was the basic ingredients needed to make focaccia. Below is my last minute, raid the pantry and refrigerator, focaccia made on a balmy spring afternoon.


  • 4 c bread flour
  • 1 1/2 c + 2 tbsp warm water (100 degrees)
  • 1/2 c yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 roma tomatoes, sliced thin
  • Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

1. Start with the paddle attachment on your stand mixer. Combine the yeast, sugar, and 1/2 c water in the bowl. Whisk together to combine and let stand for 10 minutes The mixture will become foamy.

2. Add 1 c flour to the mixture and beat together for 2 minute at medium speed. Then add another cup of flour, 1 1/2 tbsp salt, and 1/4 c olive oil to mixture and beat for 1 minute at medium-low speed until combine. Add the onion to the mixture and fold to incorporate.

3. Switch to the hook attachment on your mixer. Turn the mixer on low and add flour 1/2 cup at a time. Allow the flour to integrate into the mix fully before adding another 1/2 c. The dough should pull away completely from the sides. The end result will be a soft, slightly sticky dough. This should take around 10 minutes in total time. Cover with a towel and let sit for 30 minutes.

Note: The picture on the left shoes the shaggy, rough texture that will occur somewhere between your third and fourth half cups. The goal is to stop kneading the dough when the dough looks like the picture on the right.

4. Lay parchment paper on a heavy rimmed baking sheet. Place the dough on the paper and press out into a oval shape about 1/2 inch thick. Lightly oil some plastic wrap and lay on top of the pan. Leave to rise at room temperature for 2 hours.

5. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Take off the plastic wrap and insert your fingers (clean hands please) into the dough about 1 inch apart. Drizzle some olive oil over the dough.

6. Lay the tomatoes on top of the dough, sprinkle with 1 tsp kosher salt, and grate fresh parmesan on top.

7. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes until the top and bottom have browned, but before the cheese burns.

8. Take the focaccia out of the oven and place on a cooling rack. This ensures your crust will remain crispy. Cut into squares. Serve warm or cold with more freshly grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.