I have never considered myself a very picky eater, but I have to confess that I am a real snob when it comes to certain foods. Pizza is one, though I’m a pretty low-brow snob when it comes to pizza, but I’m not low-brow when it comes to pesto. This snobbery didn’t occur until my first visit to Liguria, pesto’s birthplace, and it has been downhill ever since. I haven’t been able to eat it in any other part of the world, I wasn’t even willing to make it myself.
Since I no longer live in such close proximity to Liguria, I really have to get over my snobby ways and at least make it myself, a very easy task with a food processor. I know, if I was a real pesto snob I would make it with a mortar and pestle, but I am a lazy snob and I also don’t own a mortar and pestle, so there we go.
I am really happy with the way that my pesto came out, but I am curious what the Ligurians use that makes their pesto that fantastic day-glow green. My husband and I would usually buy it from a pastificio in Lavagna to bring back to Rome with us, they made it themselves and would scoop it into little plastic containers and then wrap the containers in aluminum foil for us to take. It wasn’t made on the spot and would sit in the glass case in large bowls, but it kept that day-glow green color. Mine, after being exposed to air for 2 minutes turn a dark grayish green. I know that they use a different type of basil, I’ve read that they are very young basil, so maybe we can find baby basil to make it, but there must be something else.
Makes 1 cup
- 3 tbsp pine nuts
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- pinch of salt
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
A real pesto would be crushed together with a mortar and pestle, I am sure that the blade of the food processor oxidizes the basil, changing its color, but if you are like me and don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can use a food processor or a blender to do the crushing for you.
Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and mix until it becomes a paste. It can be stored in a jar, topped with a thin layer of extra-virgin olive oil, for several weeks in the fridge.
Ligurians combine pesto with potatoes and green beens when dressing a pasta, the pasta that is typically used are trofie, which you can buy fresh in any pastificio in Liguria. I did make the effort to find them in Charleston, but was sadly disappointed, though I shouldn’t have expected to find them, they weren’t easy to find in Rome! We used casareccie, which worked well, though a long pasta would have also worked as well.
Casareccie with Pesto, Green Beans and Potatoes
- 1 medium-sized waxy potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch rounds and quartered
- 1 cup green beans, broken into 1-inch pieces
- ½ lb casareccie (or the pasta of your choosing)
Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan, add salted water to cover generously, and bring to a boil. Boil gently until the potatoes are tender; drain.
In the meantime, cook the beans in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, about 4 or 5 minutes. Drain and allow to cool. You could douse them in a pool of ice water, but I usually just let them cool on their own.
Fill a large pot with water for the pasta. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water starts to boil for the pasta add a small handful of salt to the water and bring to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
Pour the pasta into a warmed bowl, add the green beans, potatoes and pesto and toss to coat the pasta, do not return to heat. Serve immediately.
This is the real thing…