Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Fat Guy

Pesto Basics

Recommended Posts

Fat Guy   

I made some pesto today and I made it poorly. Would somebody be kind enough to give me a refresher course?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Varmint   

Why did you consider it to be a poor specimen? How did you make it? Pine nuts? Food processor? When did you add cheese?

Generally, for a food processor to work, you have to use a butt load of basil. Otherwise, you just won't get it fine enough. Same thing with the garlic. I'd suggest you do the garlic separately into a paste. The pine nuts can be added to the processor, but realize they'll remain somewhat chunky. I'm sure you used good EVOO. Did you use salt? I use lemon juice to brighten up the flavor, depending on how good the basil was. Parmesano reggiano, of course. Make sure that's grated fine -- your Microplane® should do the trick. Hmmmm, what else???

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Varmint   

Criminy. I assume you didn't forget the basil, too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fat Guy   

Nope. It was a garlic issue. Also probably should have used more basil to reach critical food processor mass. It's probably hopeless to try to incorporate the garlic at this point. Pesto was much easier when I had a mortar and pestle and a brain.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
CathyL   

Marcella Hazan wants you to use Pecorino Romano as well as the Parmigiano, and a little butter. She will also allow you to freeze pesto before you add the cheese and butter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Oops. Forgot the garlic. Thanks.

It's useful to consult a definitive recipe occasionally, FG. Helps avoiding needless mistakes.

While mortar and pestle is always best, Marcella's blender version, with cheese and butter added later, is excellent.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
oraklet   

i've tried a number of recipes, and never really made a good pesto. not until this summer: in the local small-town swedish supermarket, i found a sort of basil that was a bit different from the one you can get in denmark, and tasting much more like the real thing in a pesto.

so, i think the kind of basil used will make a difference.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Earlier in the year when I ws in Liguria I asked a chef at a restaurant how they made their pesto (which was excellent). It was the basic recipe, except they added very little cheese. The basil flavour was really intense, so I wonder if their basil was the key or if the cheese dampens down the basil flavour?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
cakewalk   

I make pesto according to a very strange recipe I found in an old James Beard cookbook. Apparently he was quite ill with heart problems and had to cut down on fats, and he devised a pesto recipe that has no cheese at all, and no nuts. (It also calls for margarine instead of olive oil, which I found shocking coming from James Beard, and which I completely ignore.) But the point is, the recipe is only basil, garlic, lemon juice, S & P, and olive oil (you can use margarine if you want, I suppose.) I think it's great.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i make pesto in two batches--i process the basil & EVOO first. then i do EVOO & parmesan, garlic & pine nuts in a separate batch. i like to get the basil chopped just so--fine but not too fine--it still needs to have a little texture--if you throw everything in together, you'll kill the basil in the process of getting everything else chopped up fine.

then i blend the two batches by hand, add some lemon & sea salt and a pinch of cayenne.

some recipes call for half basil & half parsely--i never use parsley, but i have substituted cilantro for basil--this makes a really surprising and delicious "pesto"--great on corn on the cob or tomato sandwiches.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bushey   

I usually make pesto by eyeball rather than measuring ingredients and though it comes out different every time it's almost always very good. I use a food processor or blender, though I keep telling myself it's time to get a mortar and pestle.

The basil leaves go in first, followed by a healthy splash of olive oil, some chopped garlic (I go easy on the garlic based on personal preference), a handful of pine nuts (almonds if I'm out of pignoli), and a little bit of melted butter. If I'm making a big batch and plan to freeze some I don't add the parmigiano -- otherwise, I add just a little touch, à la Adam's thread. I prefer to add the extra cheese, salt and pepper when I'm using the pesto in a dish. Process until it's the desired consistency. I prefer mine more emulsified and creamy than most commercially prepared versions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Blanch the basil leaves for 15 seconds. Refresh them in ice water, then squeeze most of the moisture out (a little water being a good thing, it helps to emulsify the mixture). Keeps the pesto green longer because it retards oxidation.

Mortar and Pestle is my religion.

Garlic goes in first. Smash and puree it, then take a nice big whiff...

I usually use walnuts and a pinch of sugar for a nuttier flavor.

Lots of salt, afterall, it is a condiment, so-to-speak.

Cheese? God forbid.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In my experience an excess of any one of the other ingredients fatally dilutes the basil flavor.

I like the Parmigiano-Pecorino Roman combination, too, (Marcella is pretty much always correct), although I must say an Italian chef I knew, who had cooked in Liguria (Sanremo) for years, used only Parmigiano.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dana   

No one mentioned toasting the nuts before processing. I always do and I also usually use walnuts.

As for cilantro pesto - also delicious in hollowed-out cherry tomatoes for a starter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
No one mentioned toasting the nuts before processing. I always do and I also usually use walnuts.

As for cilantro pesto - also delicious in hollowed-out cherry tomatoes for a starter.

I always toast the nuts... no matter what I am cooking... they usually make for better flavoring.

Will have to try your cilantro pesto... :smile:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A blender works much better than a food processor for this because it achieves a much finer blend. However it can be hard to get it started in a blender. I find that it's worth the extra washing up to start it in a food processor and then transfer the rough paste to a blender.

If one doesn't have a blender, it's worth having two metal blades for the food processor, one of which is kept very sharp for those tasks that must be as finely blended as possible. The blades get dull very quickly -- think of what a beating they're getting compared to a knife.

The suggestion of freezing the pesto without the parmesan is a very good one. Also the suggestion of roasted walnuts. If you're making a lot, pine nuts are ferociously expensive, especially in London.

Suvir has got it right -- good Indian and also Mexican cooks know that nuts and seeds and spices pan-roasted separately before combining make all the difference!

Edit: Here's a tip for blender mixtures that hang up and won't get moving properly. I put the blender on a surface where I can look down into it, take the center plug out of the cover, and run the blender at low speed while inserting the wooden shaft of a long slender artist's brush down the side to near the bottom and slowly moving it around the outside of the glass jug. It gradually brings the parts that aren't moving in towards the blade. If you make a mistake and come in contact with the whirling blade, it's only light wood and no damage is done.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
awbrig   

im not a big cheese eater, howeveer I love Pesto...found a pesto recipe w out cheese on epicurious...

Has anyone ever had pesto sans cheese?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
awbrig   

I did a search and found Fat Guys pesto topic where it says many of the best pesto recipes have little to no cheese.

Second question...have you found it better to make your own Pesto or buy in in the store...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
torakris   

As a cheese lover I never thought of making a pesto without cheese, I will be interested in hearing how it turns out, does it have something different in it to make up for the lack of cheese? Iw as actually planning to make pesto tonite, i was going to try Jack Bishop's pesto my way from his Italian Vegetarian book, this recipe only calls for 1/4 cup of cheese compared to others that call for 1/2 cup to a whole cup for the same amount of basil.

I think freshly made pesto can't even compare to that of store bought, but I actually prefer the jarred ones for my risotto with pest and walnuts (heavenly), it just adds a depth you can get from fresh. So for saucing pasta and vegetables I wouldn't use anything but homemade, but store bought has its uses especially if it is going to be cooked further.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jinmyo   

I make pestos from basil/pine nuts/ parmigiano reggiano; fennel, lemon, walnuts; whole lemon (rind and all) thyme; Chinese celery, peanuts, fermented tofu.

You can do whatever you want. As long as it works.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am not really sure what defines a pesto.

I make something very pesto ish with no cheese.

It has roasted walnuts & almonds ground with garlic, flat leaf parsley, basil, verjuice and evoo.

i could eat it by the spoonful.

It is fantastic accompaniment to chicken.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Similar Content

    • By yentakaren
      Hi there Italian chefs around the world -    Two years ago (while visiting my family in New York - we live for 25 years in California))  we went to New York and ate in an Italian Restaurant in Syosset Long Island, New York (Steve's Piccola Bussola) and ordered their Chicken Cacciatore.  It was unbelievable, so savory and tender and juice and it had 4 lean and juicy (no skin, no fat, no gristle) rollups wrapped around what looked like a small (about 1-2" rib bone) (in chicken???_ was able to get some of the recipe because I called them 2x, but after 5 tries at various times, I am giving up.  He (the chef) said they used thighs - but the thighs I know are fatty and tough so I don't know where they got it.  He said they buy the whole chickens and cut it up, so I guess they can get rid of the fat,skin and gristle that way.   One, because I am never able to get their dark brown sauce (don't know how they do it because having a brown sauce by working with chicken, mushrooms, wine and onions is an enigma.  Their sauce is not sweet, or sour just rich and savory.   I saw the kind of sauce that it was when I saw the recipe of Hubert Keller's Beef Borguignon on TV, but it looked soooo difficult and was made with meat, not chicken. That has meat rollups sitting in a dark brown sauce.   Help!  I want to learn how to make that.   The initial recipe that they gave me was this:     Take chicken and cut it into pieces the size of a meatball with or without the bone.
      Take olive oil and make very hot.  Brown.  Add 2 cups chicken stock, salt and pepper, parsley, and simmer for ½ hour.  After brown, put until broiler and brown some more.
      In another skillet, put mushrooms, onions, little tomato sauce, and when sizzling and hot, add white wine (or Marsala) and cook in pan – ½ hour.  Add butter to thicken – but do not boil after butter melts
      Said I can also put a little tomato sauce in there - maybe it was tomato paste.
      After ready, marry the two and cook another 15 minutes all together (or not) – just eat it.
       
      Below is a photo of Steve's Chicken Cacciatore - I know it looks like beef, but this is chicken!
       
       

    • By Christy Martino
      Ciao!
       
      I'm Christine and I'm a born and bred New Yorker. I’m an Italian by blood (and at heart, of course) since my parents actually came from Italy. My father was from Sciacca, Sicily while my mother was from Sondrio, Lombardy. Despite coming from different regions, or because of it, love for food and cooking has been one of the mainstays in my family home life growing up. And I’ve always loved the dishes my parents prepared during special occasions, and even on regular days.
       
      And of course, I love cooking (and eating) Italian food and I have a few recipes from my mother, but I'd really love to collect some more, especially the traditional ones. And if anyone can contribute some historical background to each dish, that would be really great.
       
      Grazie mille!
    • By JohnT
      I am led to believe that World Pasta Day 2016 is to be on Tuesday, October 25 this year. So, with this in mind, what are the eG cooks planning on "cooking up" in celebrating the day?
       
      I will start the ball rolling.
       
      I am going to make my standard egg yoke pasta sheets, rolled out on my now seldom-used manual pasta machine and use them in making lasagna, using my old and reliable bolognese sauce recipe layered with béchamel sauce and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan.
       
      And with the left-over egg whites I will make a few meringue bases for portioned pavlova - Spring is here in the Southern Hemisphere and berries and fruit are starting to appear in the shops!
    • By DianaB
      Just found out that a member of eGullet, @Cia has begun to post his short videos on Italian culinary culture on YouTube.  Only one to date but I know there are more in the pipeline.  While made by an Italian based in Italy the narrative is in English.
       
      Here's the first instalment: 
       
       
       
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×