I make pesto quite often for my family. It is the one green sauce that my youngest son, Luca, will eat daily if given the opportunity.
The classic pesto sauce originated in Genoa, Italy, along the Italian Riviera where basil grows abundantly. The classic way to serve pesto in that area is with pasta, potatoes and green beans with a trofie or trenette shaped pasta (which might be difficult to find here). I like long pasta like spaghetti with my pesto, or fusilli, which holds the sauce well. In fact, I really like the taste and texture of gluten-free lentil pasta with classic pesto. It is a favorite of my daughter’s.
Pesto can be made ahead of time and refrigerated in a sealed container, topped with a bit of olive oil, for approximately 2 weeks.
Chef it Up: Once you master the classic basil and pine nut pesto, you might want to toast some extra pine nuts and serve them on top like I did here. It adds a great texture. You can also build onto the recipe by trying the traditional Genovese rendition that adds potatoes and green beans to the pasta dish. Do you like other herbs and nuts? Substitute mint for the basil and almonds for the pine nuts, which is a favorite of mine.
- 1 pound pasta (spaghetti, fusilli, and penne work well with pesto)
- 4 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- 4 tablespoons freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for grating
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- In a food processor, combine the basil, salt, and garlic. Add half of the olive oil and blend at low speed, stopping to press the basil down around the blades. (The basil will form a paste).
- Add the pine nuts and pour in the remaining olive oil and blend until the nuts are finely ground. Then add the cheese and blend again.
- Add the pasta to the pasta water and cook until al dente.
- Remove the pasta with a slotted spoon or tongs, and add to a medium size bowl with the pesto. Mix together until the pasta is well-coated.
- Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a little extra cheese if desired. Note: Never heat your pesto!