Sunday, January 31, 2010

I Am Addicted

I am addicted to fresh homemade pesto.

Forget the manufactured preserved stuff in jars. That stuff compares to fresh homemade pesto like motor oil compares to Normandy butter. Once you’ve had fresh homemade pesto, not only will you never want to go back to the mass produced 12-year shelf life stuff, you’ll also never want to be without a supply of homemade pesto in the fridge.

But isn’t it hard to make you whine?

Ah non, ce n'est pas comme ça!

In fact I’m going to walk you through how to make my basic recipe.

Here we go:

      1 bunch of fresh basil, preferably sweet Italian basil
      1/4 cup, approximately, of extra virgin olive oil
      1 bulb of garlic, peeled
      3 small dried peppers, such as bird chilies.
         (A half a teaspoon of crushed red chilis will do instead)
      1 teaspoon pine nuts
      1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
      2 pinches of salt

In a blender or food processor put in all the peeled garlic cloves and about 1/3 of the oil. Pulse a few times. Add a small handful of basil leaves, but none of the thick stems or twigs, Pulse. Use a wooden spoon between pulses to push leaves down. Add more leaves. Pulse. Add more leaves and another 1/3rd of the oil. Pulse. Repeat until 3/4 of leaves are used up. Add the rest of the oil then the rest of the leaves. Pulse several times until a thick paste is blending. Add more oil if needed. Add the salt. Pulse a few times. Add the pine nuts and pulse until they are mostly chopped, but not puréed. Now add the cheese, but this time just stir the cheese in with a spoon.

Voila, fresh homemade pesto!

Place you pesto in a bowl. Cover and store in the fridge when not being consumed. If kept covered when stored the pesto will be good for a week or more. It will mellow as well, being sharpest immediately after being made.

See?  I told you it was easy.

The above is my basic recipe. After you’ve mastered the basic formula, you should experiment. Yes, do go ahead and play with your food. There are a hundred ways to alter this recipe and make fantastic variations or adjust things to your personal taste. With pesto, if it’s good, it isn’t wrong.

Here are some simple suggestions:
- More garlic if you wish a stronger edge (I usually do).
- Increase the percentage of basil for a greener taste.
- Mix in some alternative basil leaves with your sweet basil, such as lemon basil or Thai basil for some exotic blends.
- Skip the chilies, for a zero heat experience, or up the amount for a real kick!
- Swap the pine nuts with almonds, walnuts or even cashews.
- Try different grated hard cheeses. Some strong cheeses can drastically affect the flavor.

Purists will tell you that nothing beats pesto made in a large mortar and pestle. I’ve had it that way, and while the process does have its aesthetic component, and the results are flavorful, it is also very timely and requires a lot of effort for a little pesto. And I like a lot of pesto.

In fact I’ve gotten into the habit of doubling or tripling the above recipe.


Because pesto is good on far more than pizzas and pasta. Put a spoon of fresh pesto on a hot steak just before serving, especially if cooked on the grill, and discover steak heaven. Or use it as a dip for veggies, mix with mayo for an awesome artichoke diping sauce, or rub down a chicken in pesto before baking. Make pesto bread (like garlic bread but with pesto), or add it to your scrambled eggs, or to rice… endless are the places where fresh homemade pesto can improve your day.

And it is guilt free: Fresh greens, fresh garlic, dried chilies, olive oil, some nuts and a bit of hard cheese. It’s all healthy stuff. Heck some people buy garlic tablets so they can get the health benefits of raw garlic. Me, I eat fresh pesto!

Next time you’re at the market and see that bunch of fresh basil, pick it up and bring it home. Put on some Paolo Conte and make some fresh pesto. Then enjoy with a friend.

Who knows, you may even become a fresh pesto addict, like me. And that’s a good thing.

Mangez lentement et goûter la vie,
Le Capitaine


  1. yummy! I'm going to try this.

  2. This sounds delish, thanks for sharing the recipe!

  3. makes me sad my basil is under 2' of snow!
    a squeeze of lemon gives it a little zip too.
    thanks for the recipes my friend!

  4. I love pesto... I made it from my imagination once and baked salmon in it and it was delicious. Now that I actually have a recipe I think I will give it another go!