I have tasted pesto sauce many times, but never anything as good as freshly prepared home-made sauce. The peppery basil with the nutty, cheesy flavors of pine nuts and parmesan mix with olive oil into a sublime and versatile sauce. Spread pesto on my roasted garlic appetizer, on pasta, as a dip, salad dressing, pizza topping and sandwiches.
The traditional name is pesto alla Genovese and is made with only five ingredients, plus a little salt. Its origin, minus the basil is believed to be from ancient Roman times.
The name comes from the Italian word pesta, meaning “to crush” and the city of Genoa where the addition of basil turned it into the sauce we love today.
These are actually seeds, but because of their shape and taste are called nuts. There are about 20 species of pine trees that can produce large seeds suitable for consumption, including three in North America. Sorry, but common yellow and white pine aren’t on the list!
Beware of Pine Mouth
In rare cases raw pine nuts can cause a “taste disturbance” for some people. It’s an unpleasant bitter, metallic taste that lasts for a few days after consumption. Scientists have fingered Chinese white pine, pinus armandii as a suspect, but it causes no adverse clinical effects and goes away without treatment. The moral of the story is… toast your pine nuts to be safe!
- 1/2 cup pine nuts – toasted golden brown
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup fresh parmesan – shredded or grated
- 2 cloves garlic – chopped
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 4 cups basil leaves – de-stemmed
- 1 pinch finely ground black pepper – optional
- Preheat oven to 350
- De-stem your basil leaves
- Toast the pine nuts on a baking sheet until golden brown, about 6-7 minutes. Remove from oven and allow time to cool
- Add pine nuts, parmesan and garlic into a food processor. Pulse until medium ground
- Add basil and salt, then pulse while drizzling in the olive oil a little at a time until well combined
- Note: I like a slightly rough, grainy mix as a spread, but a very smooth sauce for pasta. Trust your taste buds and remember, you can’t go backwards!
- Adjust seasoning with salt and optional ground black pepper
Purchasing fresh basil at the grocery can be very expensive, so I highly recommend growing your own. Your own herb garden is so cheap and easy it makes you feel like you’re getting away with something, but it’s completely legal!