Basil pesto originates from the Genoa region of northern Italy (pesto alla genovese). Pesto in Italian is derived from a word meaning to pound or crush. Obviously the food was named before they had food processors. Can you imagine grinding all the ingredients together? There is mention of a basil cheese spread as far back as Roman times, but it was the Genovese that first combined all the typical ingredients. It was not until the 1940s (probably because of World War II) that basil pesto started to be mentioned in newspapers. And it did not become a popular dish in America until the 1980s and 1990s. I call it a “triple crown” recipe – easy to make, healthy, and delicious. In a later article, I will show you how to make sundried tomato pesto also.
I might also add that although my recipe calls for the basil pesto to be added to pasta, you can use it on baked potatoes, spread over crostini (thinly-sliced toasted bread), or you can use it to season fish and chicken dishes.
Ingredients (5 servings):
- 2 cups (about 5 ounces) – fresh basil, pressed or packed (approximately – i.e., take the basil leaves and press them into a cup)
- 3 cloves – garlic
- 1/4 cup – pine nuts
- 4 ounces – parmesan, grated
- ½ cup – extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon – salt
- Pepper to taste
- 1 pound – fresh pasta (linguine or fettuccine)
Rinse the basil leaves and place them in a food processor along with the garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil and blend until well mixed (see photo).
Add pepper to taste and mix.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a few quarts of water (if it is fresh pasta it should only take a few minutes). Drain the pasta and place back in the pot. Add the basil pesto and mix well. Serve hot. Bon appétit!
Basil pesto on linguine