FOOD HISTORY ALERT!! Scroll down to skip this super interesting and not at all geeky bit…but if you’re like me and can’t resist a good background story, especially about food! then read on!
Pesto, maybe not as we know it now; has origins as far back as the Roman Age. The word Pesto originates from the word pestâ (in Genoese) which refers to crushing or pounding, so essentially a pesto is anything that is crushed or pounded. The basic version, pepped up by the Genoese with the addition of sweet basil created ‘Pesto alla Genovese’ and is now a staple in many European households – that’s your favourite green one!
Traditionally Pesto alla Genovese is made using garlic, pine nuts, coarse salt, basil, parmesan, pecorino cheese and olive oil and is combined in a pestle and mortar (that’s the crushing and pounding). I for one however, do not have a bank vault full off gold bars to buy pine nuts with nor do I always have the time or inclination to pound my pesto, so walnuts and a blender do me just fine!
Homemade pesto, is punchier and frankly far superior to what you might find in a jar and once you’ve made it I am sure you will agree! Its really quick to make, stores well and is so versatile! If you stick to the basic principles of; garlic, cheese, nuts and oil you can make all sorts of variations and get really creative!
Here’s my budget friendly and quick version of Pesto alla Genovese.
Love me or hate me… no scales required this time!
My Pesto alla Genovese
Ingredients (makes a large jar 3-4 servings)
Garlic – 2 cloves
Coarse Salt – a large pinch
Fresh basil – A really good handful stalks and all!
Walnuts – a handful, walnuts have a similar flavour to pine nuts but you can also use almonds and hazelnuts
Parmesan and/or Pecorino cheese – a good handful grated
Olive oil – a few glugs (I highly recommend using a good quality one as it does form part of the flavour)
1. Garlic and salt – put the garlic and salt into the blender and pulse until broken up. This part is essential as the coarse salt not only helps crush the garlic it helps with the release of flavour and takes away the burning taste of raw garlic
2. Everything else – put the basil, nuts and cheese in the blender and pulse until very coarsely blended (try not to make a paste you want some texture) while pulsing, slowly drizzle in the oil to help incorporate the ingredients, stop when you feel you have the consistency you want.
3. Serve and enjoy!
How to store pesto
Transfer any unused pesto into a clean jar, top up with more olive oil to ensure no pesto is exposed, close the lid tight and store in the fridge for up to a week. Alternatively you can freeze it.