Monday, August 9, 2010

Home Grown Basil = Pesto!

This year we decided to try growing our own basil. We all love the wonderful aroma that basil has and we have been garnishing every meal with it. Eggs in the morning, sandwiches and salads at lunch and on evening meals on pasta, chicken, steak and baked potatoes. We are starting to wake up in the morning craving the taste of basil.  Since we are having such a craving for basil, we decided to make pesto and put it on pasta as well as tomatoes with basil and mozzarella cheese. So we also planted tomatoes to compliment the basil. Well...who knew the basil would flourish and we would have such a large crop? Now pesto is on the menu for the day, and a few others as well. 

When we were in San Francisco for Cassandra's graduation, we were lucky enough to stay at my cousins apartment.  He loves to cook and it is always such a pleasure to visit him. In his kitchen he had a beautiful mortar and pestle. Being in San Francisco, which is the home of William Sonoma, we had a thought that maybe it came from there and low and behold we were right. This beautiful Mortar and pestle is now on the list that we hope to own someday. So begins the making of our very own pesto that is a little daunting because a cuisinart would be so much easier, but we are giving the old fashion traditional way a try.

Our Basil and Tomato Plants!

Making Ligurian Pesto

A specialty of Liguria, Italy, pesto is traditionally prepared with a mortar and pestle for maximum taste and ideal texture. The grinding action of the pestle produces a smooth texture and brings out the full flavor of the ingredients.
  • Making Ligurian PestoPut basil, pine nuts, garlic and salt in the mortar. Using a rotating motion with the pestle, grind the ingredients against the sides to form a paste. Then add Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and grind in a circular motion until blended.
  • Making Ligurian PestoDrizzle in a thin stream of olive oil while stirring quickly with a wooden spoon. Taste the pesto and adjust the seasonings with salt.

Things You'll Need:

  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 1 small block Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Colander
  • Paper towels
  • Frying pan
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Fine cheese grater
  • Mortar and pestle

    How to Make Pesto with a Mortar and Pestle

  1. Step1
    Wash the basil, removing any dirt. Pluck the leaves and put
    them into the colander.

  2. Step2
    Dry the basil on the paper towels, patting lightly. Be careful not
    to bruise the leaves.

  3. Step3
    Place the pine nuts in the pan and toast them on the stove using a
    medium-low setting. Stir or toss occasionally for even toasting. Do
     not walk away from this process or the nuts will burn. It is not necessary
    to toast the pine nuts, but doing so will result in a nuttier flavor.

  4. Step4
    Remove the nuts from the heat and set them aside to cool.

  5. Step5
    Cut the garlic in half or in quarters to make it easier to smash.

  6. Step6
    Chop the basil roughly, just enough to make it easier to pound.

  7. Step7
    Place the garlic, pine nuts--reserving 1 tbsp.--and a small pinch
    of salt in the mortar and smash using a down and outward motion.
    The salt will help to grind the garlic and nuts.

  8. Step8
    Add some of the basil and a small amount of olive oil, roughly a
    tablespoon. Smash and pound until the basil has a chopped appearance.
    The oil is important because it helps to lubricate the leaves and avoid pesto discoloration.

  9. Step9
    Continue to add more basil and oil, pounding and using all of the basil.

  10. Step10
    Add the tablespoon of nuts and pound lightly, leaving the pieces
    slightly rough for texture.

  11. Step11
    Grate the cheese until you have ¾ cup and incorporate it into the pesto.

  12. Step12
    Add pepper and salt to taste.

  13. Step13
    Store the pesto in a small bowl in the refrigerator, topped with a
    thin layer of oil and plastic wrap to prevent drying out and discoloration.
    The pesto can remain fresh for around a week or longer if it is properly stored,
    although some of the flavors may not be as strong.

    *Images compliments of Chic Coles, William Sonoma


Jenn @ Living Luxe for Less said...

Basil is one of my favorite cooking ingredients and you have inspired me to try making pesto the old fashioned way! I wonder if I can use my molcajete instead of a mortar and pestle?

SAMI. said...

wow! that looks amazing! i can't believe you can make pesto without a food processor and with just a mortar and pestle! i will definitely have to try this recipe!!


Anonymous said...


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style'n said...

adding this to my blogger recipes!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Guys,
Can you tell me what to do with my poor sagging basil plant(s)? I bought a pot with about 7-8 "stalks" (each one a separate plant, maybe?) that started to wilt within a week of my bringing it home (it had stayed indoors). I transplanted it to a much bigger pot (and discovered it was incredibly pot-bound), watered it well and even gave it some fertilizer, but it (they) only perked up slightly. It's still indoors but behind a double-pane glass door. I live near Davis, so I am afraid of sticking it in the ground in my backyard which can get searingly hot in the summer. Any tips?

LindsB said...

I just had dinner but now I want to make another meal just so I can have some pesto- yummy!

Emily said...

This look sooo good! I registered for one of these to make pesto, guacamole, etc. and i really hope I get to take one home with me!!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of basil so my husband makes me cilantro (from his garden) pesto. Basically the same ingredients. Just swapping out the basil. Delicious. You should give it a try.

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