Glorious Pesto. A marvel of simplicity, I love this Italian green gem. Fresh, versatile and more than just a sauce for pasta, it’s can be used in any number of kitchen creations. It’s truly is a treasure of Mediterranean cuisine!

Since pesto consists of nothing more than a few key ingredients, the quality and variety of what you use really does matter. Select young herbs and young garlic (it’s much sweeter and juicier), coarse grained sea salt, and a delicate, buttery tasting Italian olive oil (olive oil made from taggiasca olives is a nice choice). And please don’t skimp on the cheese – go for the real deal – aged Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino.

Although pesto is usually a basil-based sauce, any mix of your favorite fresh herb will do. Basil, parsley or marjoram are mild and therefore make a good base for adding the stronger flavored herb such as sage or thyme. Probably best to start with a few leaves, then add more as you go along to find the taste you like best.

There are endless ways pesto can prepared and used – I’ve included three of my favorites. As to how you choose to use them, that’s up to you. But in case you are looking for ideas other than as a sauce for pasta or gnocchi, here are a few:

    • Layered in a baked pasta dish – makes for a great vegetarian lasagna.
    • Perfect on a panini or sandwich to add new flavor – I love a mix of basil pesto and sun-dried tomato on focaccia with fresh mozzarella (bocconcini), tomatoes and a little baby arugula.
    • Makes for a great homemade pesto vinaigrette – served over antipasto and salad greens.
    • Fabulous drizzled over vegetables or roasted potatoes.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

        • 1 cup packed fresh basil (20 g)
        • 1 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (25 g)
        • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
        • 1/4 cup (about 6) oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
        • 2 tablespoons, or more extra virgin olive oil
        • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
        • sea salt, to taste

Spring Pesto

        • 3-4 bunches chives or wild garlic (150 g)
        • 3 tablespoons ground almonds
        • 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan (80 g)
        • about 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (100 ml)
        • sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Classic Genovese Pesto

        • 3/4 cup pine nuts, roasted (50 g)
        • 4 cups packed fresh basil (80 g)
        • about 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (100 ml)
        • 1 cup pecorino (100 g)
        • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
        • sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Blend all ingredients well until smooth.

2. Keeps for up to five days refrigerated, or store in the freezer for a longer duration.


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