101 Cookbooks is my new favourite vegetarian cooking website. I love the context and details provided for each recipe. There isn’t so much that it’s too much to read but there’s exactly enough to give you everything you need to understand the “why” of cooking something a certain way.
I’m not a lover of commercial pesto and rarely eat it but this pesto is simple and fabulous. The trick is to hand chop everything. You can get the full explanation of why it is so much better here but my own feeling is that the unevenness of hand-chopping makes each bite a little different.
- 1 large bunch of basil, leaves only, washed and dried
- 3 medium cloves of garlic
- one small handful of raw pine nuts
- roughly 3/4 cup Parmesan, loosely packed and freshly grated
- A few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
Chop the garlic along with about 1/3 of the basil leaves. Once this is loosely chopped add more basil, chop some more, add the rest of the basil, chop some more. At this point the basil and garlic should be a very fine mince. Add about half the pine nuts, chop. Add the rest of the pine nuts, chop. Add half of the Parmesan, chop. Add the rest of the Parmesan, and chop. In the end you want a chop so fine that you can press all the ingredients into a basil “cake” – see the photo up above. Transfer the pesto “cake” to a small bowl (not much bigger than the cake).
Cover the pesto “cake” with a bit of olive oil. It doesn’t take much, just a few tablespoons. At this point, you can set the pesto aside, or place it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Just before serving, give the pesto a quick stir to incorporate some of the oil into the basil. Francesca’s mom occasionally thins the pesto with a splash of pasta water for more coverage, but for our gnocchi this wasn’t necessary.