Pesto: A meal in a blender; also known as: No food processor necessary. Of all the kitchen gadgets, pots, and bowls I own, a food processor is not among them. It’s one of those items I never seem to get around to buying, for one reason or another. When I first started cooking, I didn’t buy one purely because I was being ornery: this cook would do it all by hand, no machines allowed! Later, after I wasn’t so ornery anymore, I didn’t buy one because they were a little too out of my price range. Now, I’m not sure why I don’t buy one. Habit at this point, mostly, plus a lack of counter space. However, I do have a blender, and I’ve used it to make all kinds of sauces (which has the bonus of being able to make milkshakes when the fancy strikes).
Pesto is one of the best things to make in a blender: throw almost all your ingredients in, blend, and you have an excellent sauce that doesn’t need any cooking.
3-5 garlic cloves
2 cups tightly packed basil (or loosely packed if you want a lighter sauce)
Large pinch salt
2/3 cup olive oil
3 tbls pignoli nuts (pine nuts)
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
3 tbls grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Note: You can use one or both of these cheeses, in whatever ratio you prefer. I actually prefer the opposite of what’s listed (which is the standard) because Pecorino Romano is much sharper, which is what I like. I tend to like really sharp, strong flavors (Parmigiano Reggiano is a much milder cheese).
- Add all ingredients except the cheese to blender and blend/chop until everything is finely chopped. This sauce is not meant to be super smooth, so don’t over-blend.
- Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cheese.
Serve over hot pasta. The heat will make the sauce a bit thinner, helping to coat the pasta evenly. My favorite pasta for this dish is bucatini, which is a type of pasta that is essentially a thick spaghetti with a hole running through the center (the better to absorb more sauce!), giving a nice heft to what is a very light dish.
To store any leftovers (or if you want to make it in advance), store in a tightly sealed glass jar with a thin layer of olive oil over the top of the sauce.
Note: Pesto can be made with other greens as well. My dad prefers to make this sauce with arugula rather than basil, and I’ve seen recipes for pesto made with brocoli rabe and even walnuts (which is a different sauce entirely but is still technically a pesto!).