This is perfect pesto. I can say that without sounding immodest because Marcella Hazan taught me how to make it. This is a modified version of her pesto recipe, and is the best pesto recipe I have ever tasted.
Marcella Hazan died this year and this post is a tribute to her. She was a brilliant Italian cook and food writer and I learned how to make Italian food from her. So did a lot of other people. She is considered to be one of the foremost authorities on Italian cuisine. She was also supposed to be a crabby, prickly, chain-smoker, but who cares because she sure could cook. The New York Times has an article and online interview with Marcella if you’re interested.
You may wonder why I’ve got a pesto recipe on a site that features low carb and gluten free. When I started eating low carb I cut back on pasta, but there was no way in hell I was giving up pesto. Pesto is not just for pasta! Pesto tastes great on roasted vegetables – especially roasted cauliflower and broccoli. It’s also fantastic spread on a warm frittata, as a skeptical houseguest, who shall go unnamed, can attest to. And pesto, in place of tomato sauce, on a homemade gluten free pizza is sublime.
Pesto, as simple as it is, can be really bad. I’m sure you’ve had your share. There’s the type that’s sharp with too much garlic, the one that throws off little oil pools, or the kind that doesn’t taste like much because there’s not enough parmesan cheese or basil in it. Speaking of which, use the best parmesan that you feel like paying for. It makes a difference. Parmesan Reggiano is expensive but really does taste way better than any other type.
Pesto keeps for about a week in the refrigerator and freezes great. I usually double this recipe and freeze half, in a plastic bag. A little trick to get the frozen pesto out of the bag – run it under hot water just to separate the pesto from the bag, cut the bag and dump the frozen pesto lump into a bowl to thaw. Saves trying to scrape the pesto out of the bag.
- 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 rounded tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (the best is parmigiano-reggiano)
- Rinse basil, pick off leaves, and dry lightly (I use a salad spinner). Put basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until it is creamy. Scrape down bowl as necessary.
- Transfer pesto to a bowl and mix in the grated parmesan by hand. Taste for salt.
- Keeps covered in the refrigerator for one week. Freezes well.