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Pesto Presto!

Pesto Presto!


This classic sauce is endlessly adaptable.


By FamilyTime

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Pesto, while originally from the Mediterranean, is a sauce that has worked its way into the American culinary lexicon. We serve it with pasta, salads, fish, chicken, beef, and on sandwiches. And it always adds a delicious accent.

Traditionally, pesto is made with fresh basil and tossed with fresh strand pasta such as linguine and fettuccine. It can be made with other fresh herbs, too, and served in other ways.

While you can buy very good pesto in specialty stores and supermarkets, the pesto you make at home tastes best. And it’s easy to make.

Classic Basil Pesto
While there are numerous variations, basil pesto is the yardstick by which most people judge pesto. It’s a delicious amalgam of fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, and Parmesan cheese.

Most likely, basil pesto was created in Genoa, Italy, although some say it is the city of Nice that introduced the world to this treasure. Because it’s so simple to make and its ingredients are so universal, it has traveled well. Now, it’s found everywhere, used by chefs and home cooks who savor its fresh, rich, herbaceous flavors.

By a conservative estimate, there are more than 60 types of basil grown around the world. Most people make pesto with sweet, green basil, which tastes mildly of anise. Other basils can have small purple or nearly black leaves and slightly spicier flavor. Lemon basil, with its citrusy notes, is another nice alternative to sweet basil.

Other Pestos
Once you develop a taste for basil pesto, don’t hesitate to move on to others. Home cooks can easily make cilantro pesto, sun-dried tomato pesto, cilantro-mint pesto, and more.

These taste wonderful with grilled or broiled fish, roasted vegetables (particularly potatoes), and pasta. Spread them on burgers and other sandwiches. Use the sauces to accent tomato salads. Serve them alongside cheese and crusty bread.

Making Pesto
If you have a food processor, making pesto is easy and quick. You can make it as they did in Europe, in a mortar with a pestle, but this is labor intensive.

Begin with a good amount of fresh basil. Pick the leaves from the stems and pack them loosely when measuring. For a pound of pasta (about two-thirds cup of pesto), you will need about two cups of basil leaves. If your garden is bursting with basil, making pesto is a good way to use it!

Begin by processing the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and cheese to a rough paste and then, with the motor running, add enough olive oil to turn the rough paste into a smooth, thick one. Taste, season with salt and pepper, and you’re done.

The basil, parmesan, and olive oil balance the flavors of the pesto; the garlic forms an underlying platform of pungency. Use the best ingredients you can for the sauce. While it will be delicious made with good olive oil, it will be superb made with high-quality olive oil.

Use the same procedure to make all pestos. Some may call for canola oil or walnuts. Once mixed, they can be used immediately or refrigerated for about a week. Store them in glass jars for the best flavor.

Pesto also freezes well, which is a bonus for gardeners with an abundance of herbs. It also tastes marvelously fresh and green in mid winter.

If you plan to freeze pesto, leave out the pine nuts and cheese when making the initial batch. Add them to the pesto after it’s thawed by zapping them with the base sauce in the food processor.

Pesto is rich. Two of its primary ingredients are oil and cheese, and so it’s wise to use it sparingly. A little goes a long way and it always tastes divine. Try it!




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Tagged With: pesto, basil, garlic, pasta, Mediterranean
  








 
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