Pesto Genovese

Energetic Italian grannies make their pesto by hand in a marble mortar, adding the basil leaves one by one. The result is the silkiest, smoothest pesto imaginable. Modern granddaughters are more likely to reach for the food processor, and the result is almost as good.

  • Preparation time: 10 minutes in a processor, 30 minutes by hand
  • Total time: 40 minutes 40 minutes

Makes: 1 x 450g jar, enough for pasta for 6-8 people

Ingredients

  • 4 packs basil, or 1 large basil plant, leaves only
  • 25g pine kernels
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp granular sea salt
  • 50g freshly grated Parmesan
  • 100-200ml extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Wash and dry the basil leaves. Heat a dry frying pan over a medium heat and toast the pine kernels lightly for 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
  2. If you're using a mortar, pound the garlic with the salt to make a soft mush. Pound in the pine nuts, then work in the basil leaves, 2-3 at a time, with a circular movement of the pestle, until all is reduced to a silky paste. (The mixture can be frozen at this point). Work in the cheeses, then beat in the olive oil with a wooden spoon until you have a thick, dense sauce. Add more or less oil depending on the texture you like.
  3. If you're using a processor, drop all the ingredients in and blitz to a luscious green sauce.
  4. To serve, cook a pasta of your choice according to packet instructions. Ligurian cooks put a few small cubes of potato to cook with the pasta because the starch improves the sticking power of the pesto. Before dressing the pasta, dilute the pesto with a tablespoonful of pasta cooking water.
  5. To store the pesto, pour into a jar, float a layer of olive oil on top, cover and refrigerate for up to a week.