Marcella Hazan, the woman who introduced authentic Italian cuisine to many of us and is considered the mother of Italian cooking in America has some very specific instructions regarding how to prepare Pesto Genoese. She is absolutely insistent that two different cheeses are the key to a “well-rounded pesto.” And so I follow her lead in this more health-conscious version. You can go traditional and make this with a mortar and pestle, but if pressed for time a food processor or blender, arguably do just as well.
Pesto Genoese is traditionally served with fettuccine or spaghetti, but it also works especially well as a topping on simply prepared proteins like fish or chicken, stirred into a vegetable soup, or dolloped on an omelet or scrambled eggs.
Pesto Genoese adapted from Blender Pesto, The Classic Italian Cookbook by Marcella Hazan
Total: 00:15 Prep: 00:15
Servings: Enough for 6 generous servings with pasta or about 12 servings when used as condiment atop fish, omelets, chicken, soups, etc.
2 cups fresh basil leaves, torn gently so as not to crush the basil
½ cup best quality olive oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 – 2 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated Romano pecorino cheese
1. Add all ingredients, except the cheeses and butter, to a blender or food processor and mix on medium speed. You may need to periodically scrape down the sides of the blender or food processor with a spatula to insure all ingredients have been well combined.
2. Place blended ingredients in a bowl and incorporate the cheeses by hand until well combined
3. If serving the Pesto with pasta, add a tablespoon or so of the hot and starchy water your pasta has cooked.
4. Pesto will keep for a good week in the refrigerator.
- Vegan Pesto. Eliminate the cheese for a balanced basil, nut and garlic pesto. For another layer of flavors and to boost to the nutritional value, try adding some nutritional yeast as a cheese-flavor substitute.
- Parsley Walnut Pesto: substitute parsley for the basil and walnuts for the pine nuts; increase amount of walnuts to 1 cup; eliminate the cheese. A teaspoon or two of sherry vinegar is a delicious addition and helps to meld the flavors.
- Parsley Pesto with Anchovies: add 2 anchovy filets to the Parsley Walnut Pesto. Eliminate the teaspoon of salt as anchovies are salty enough on their own.
Pour a tablespoon or so of olive oil on top of any Pesto you are storing in the refrigerator. This will help to prevent it from discoloring.
Pesto Genoese is admittedly somewhat high in fat, but it is also very high in flavor and therefore deeply satisfying and satiating. Adding just a tablespoon on top of a lean protein will do much to make you meal more enjoyable with a small caloric hit.
If you happen to have bundles of basil this summer, make pesto to freeze. Note: Cheese does not freeze well, so add the cheese later, when you have thawed your Pesto. Neat trick: freeze your Pesto in ice cube trays to create small portion sizes. Once frozen, transfer the Pesto cubes to a freezer safe bag or container for convenient storage.