Despite months of neglect and mistreatment, my poor herbs have been clinging to life in their cramped little pots, their roots desperately reaching for the last few drops of water in soil that has been parched for weeks, their leaves reaching into a single beam of sunlight that shines through the balcony fence, like a convict grasping through prison bars for his last meal, their stalks shuddering against the raging wind, even as their fellows are viciously cut down, one-by-one, all in the name of… pesto!
Yes, pesto. I have been perfecting my pesto recipe all summer, and am now ready to share it with you.
As you read the ingredients list, keep in mind that this pesto recipe should not be followed step-by-step. Pesto is all about the fresh herbs. I have given options, so that you can substitute what you may not have, and if you have something completely different, feel free to toss in a bit of that too! Taste your pesto as you go, and add more or less of the ingredients depending on the flavour. Treat this recipe as merely a guideline while you work on creating your own glorious method to the perfect pesto.
– olive oil
– 4 carrot greens, or 5 sprigs of curled pasley
– 3 sprigs of leafy basil
– 3 green garlic stalks, or 2 cloves garlic
– 5 sprigs lemon-thyme
– 1 cup pine nuts, or 1 cup shelled roasted no-salt pistachios (pine nuts will give a creamier texture, pistachios will give a nuttier flavour)
– 1 cup shredded parmesan
– a pinch of salt
– a teaspoon of lemon juice (optional)
Put the pine nuts or pistachios in the food processor with the garlic, and chop up for about 5 seconds. Toss in the herbs in equal parts, however much will fit in your food processor, and chop some more. Keep adding herbs and chopping until you’ve fit them all in that little food processor! Give the mixture a taste. Does it need more garlic? Probably– garlic is the best! Is it too bland? Toss in that salt and add in more thyme/green onion. Too grassy? More basil. Too sharp? Add a little bit of lemon juice. Keep chopping and tasting. Also keep in mind that some of the grassy bitterness will level out as you add olive oil.
Now that you’ve got a good mix of herbs, it’s time to start adding olive oil. Turn on the processor and slowly pour in the olive oil until you get the right consistency. Most recipes say you should keep adding oil until you get an emulsion. I prefer less oil, but instead a thick creamy mass of spreadable pesto. When you have it how you want it (keep tasting it as you go), add the Parmesan, and give it one last pulse, and you’re done.
The pesto takes about 10-15 mins to make. I usually make it with one box of Rotini pasta (I like the kind made with spinach), which can feed up to 4. I have the water boiling and pasta going as I’m doing the pesto. I also like to throw some cut up cherry tomatoes and Crimini mushrooms into the pasta as well. Sometimes I add some green olive swai on the side for even more deliciousness. Since it’s just the two of us right now, that makes enough for dinner and lunch the next day for the both of us.