Drying the basil
We're preparing to leave this Saturday for a week of fun and sun in our favorite Italian beach town of Levanto. Levanto is in the region of Liguria, perhaps most well-know for it's port town of Genoa and the spectacular heritage site of Cinque Terre, but for us, it's all about being in the birthplace of pesto!
The Hendricks family are serious pesto afficianados. No jarred pesto for us! I first discovered its' pungent deliciousness in my early 20's at a small italian restaurant across the street from my apartment on rue St. Mathieu in Montreal. After C2 and I hooked up, we made regular summer pilgrammages to the largely Italian Jean Talon market to buy armfuls of fragrant basil. We would spend the rest of the day lovingly picking and rinsing the delicate green leaves before making enough quantity to freeze and enjoy all winter long.
We carried the tradition through our years of living in Calgary routing out basil wherever we could find it, and passed our love of it onto our son J. Fortunately, Geneva's markets are full of basil beginning in early July, and this past Sunday, I picked up several bunches at the Ville-la-Grande market. We spent part of a hot afternoon that day making and freezing a couple of months worth. For the record, years ago, we used to be more purist and made our pesto using a mortar and pestle, but now use a food processor which cuts production time dramatically.
Here is our recipe for pesto:
Several bunches of fresh basil, picked from the stems, rinsed and dried
Several handfuls of pine nuts toasted in a dry pan
6-7 cloves of garlic
3-4 large pinches of coarse sea salt
good olive oil
Add all ingredients except olive oil into a food processor. You may have to do several batches depending upon quantity. Work in small batches if using a mortar and pestle.
Add a little olive oil and pulse food processor a couple of times. Press the on button and add more olive oil from the top feeder until mixture resembles a wet paste. Stop as necessary and push basil stuck to sides of food processor back into mix. Add more salt to taste.
Freeze pesto in ice cube trays for about 8 hours then remove cubes and freeze them in a freezer bag. One or two cubes will do for a dinner for 4-5 people.
1. Pesto is best served on a pasta with ridges which better hold the sauce such as penne rigate or farfalle (bows). Add a little of the hot pasta water to the pesto in a large bowl to thin the pesto a bit and mix the cooked pasta directly in same bowl.
2. We do not add parmesan cheese to the original mixture as many recipes call for but rather in copious fresh amounts when serving.
3. Serve with grilled chicken on top.