Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

RECIPE: Pesto Genovese

I still miss Italy, but at least I was able to bring a little bit of it home with me. I brought back "The Perfumes and Flavours of Liguria" by Laura Rangoni. It's not the most fancy or professional cookbook out there, but it has authentic recipes of the region. I also figured it would be a fun experience because these recipes are not quite as scientific as the test-kitchened to death recipes in a professional magazine/cookbook/cooking show. The directions are not always translated well, amounts are in grams or sometimes not given. Sometimes there are question marks in lieu of cooking times.

I started with pesto, because not only is it easy to make, but pesto is everywhere in this region. It was invented here and every restaurant has at least one pesto dish. It's even in the soup. This makes me happy, because I have always been a fan of pesto. It is delicious and is an alternative to tomato sauce that is not creamy and bad for you. My favorite sauce of all time, practically, is Trader Joe's cilantro-walnut pesto. I can go through a jar of that right quick.

I now have my own basil plant (pictured above) but it's not big enough for me to pull 40-50 leaves off of it without totally embarassing it, so I left it alone for now and instead purchased some fresh sweet basil from the market. I can't tell you how much I appreciate having a market in walking distance that sells fresh bunches of herbs.

I have given you the same recipe I used, but I have to give some info about this. First, a whole cup is a lot of oil. You probably don't need that much. I ended up putting a bunch of extra basil leaves in because I used the whole cup of oil and then thought it was too much. Also, the garlic is a bit much as well. My garlic had a mutant giant clove on it, so I only used four and this still turned out super garlicky. I would put in 2-3 cloves, taste, and then add more if needed after that. Unless you like garlic alot. Then you could go ahead and throw in 4-5 from the get-go.

J. thoughtfully bought me some pasta that "looked kind of like" trofie, the local Ligurian pasta so we could create an almost authentic Ligurian dish. I put my pesto in a jar because I wanted it to look cool and we have this whole colony of jars at the back of our fridge that really need to be emptied, scoured with boiling water and re-used because I don't think the current contents are ever going to be used.

It turned out to look very cute, and as an added bonus, my apartment smelled like basil for the rest of the afternoon.


Pesto Genovese
(Serves 4)

  • 40-50 small fresh basil leaves
  • 1 spoonful grated sheep's milk cheese
  • 4 spoonfuls grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 5-6 cloves garlic
  • salt
Blend basil, pine nuts, garlic cloves and salt in a food processor. Or, if you are committed to being authentic and/or a Luddite, blend with mortar and pestle and then beat with the pestle until smooth. Add sheep's milk cheese and mix again. Then add parmesan and mix yet again. Finally, pour oil into mixture in a thin thread, mixing the whole time until you achieve your desured texture.

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I recently added a few fresh strawberries to my pesto mix since I was lacking in cheese. OMG, so good, and who would've guessed?

said by Garrett at 10:05 AM Delete

Really? I would never have thought of that ... very interesting. Next time I make pesto I will have to try to experiment ......

said by KT at 10:08 AM Delete

I adore pesto too. Just in case you haven't grown basil before, provided it has loads of sunlight, you can trim those little leaves off and that spurrs more prolific growth. I can't keep up with my plant and I use a LOT of basil.

And yeah, the strawberry pesto is amazing. I posted it on my blog:

said by Acme Instant Food at 11:04 AM Delete

Well, that's kind of the problem. It's only getting half-sun and it should be getting full sun. I think maybe I'll trim it and then stick it outside for a while and see if it goes crazy.

The strawberry pesto is popular! Maybe next time I get strawberries and can't eat them all (like, when does that happen? we'll see....) I will try this. I am tres curious now.

said by KT at 3:39 PM Delete

What kind of cheese did you use?

One of my egglings did not work, but I don't know which one yet. The little plants are so tiny! Thanks again.

Strawberries are closely related to tomatoes, so it makes sense, I guess, to have them in a pesto...sounds very interesting. :)

said by Anyanka at 1:57 PM Delete

Well, the recipe called for "Sardinian ewe's cheese," which, unsurprisingly I just did not see in the store. So I used pecorino romano. I bought a chunk of it and grated with my fabulous microplane zester.

Too bad about the bum egg. That's why I got more than one, because those things often don't work. Hope the other one gets big and strong!

said by KT at 2:08 PM Delete

Do you have an actual microplane zester, or did you buy a microplane from the hardware store? Picture, please...

said by Anyanka at 12:22 PM Delete

Microplane Zester. One the awesomest kitchen tools ever.

said by KT at 12:29 PM Delete

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