Friday, January 9, 2009

Pesto 101

Pesto is a great weapon to have up your culinary sleeve. It is remarkably easy, so long as you are able to ascertain which flavors go together. Contrary to popular belief, pesto is not always basil + pine nuts + EVOO + parmesan. There are endless varieties. You can introduce any leafy herb or greens to just about any nut, so long as the flavors are complimentary.

Here I've created a pretty basic pesto that will satisfy pesto traditionalists, but has a little added twist in the form of fresh tarragon. So check out the fresh herbs at your market - whatever smells good t
o you, buy it. Pick up some nuts that you think will go with it (arugula and almonds, spinach and walnuts, cilantro and pistachios, etc. etc.), and chances are the rest of the ingredients are already in your pantry and refrigerator. Break out the food processor and presto!

I kept this pesto fairly thick so that I could serve it over fresh mozzarella on some beautiful rosemary bread slices. If you want to use it for pasta, feel free to add a little more olive oil or some of the starchy cooking liquid from your pasta to thin it out a bit.

This recipe only makes about 1/3 cup of pesto - so multiply as you see fit.

Pesto 101
serves 1-2, depending on how much you like pesto!


1 1/2 tablespoons of pine nuts
generous fistful of fresh basil leaves (about 10-12 leaves), torn
2 tablespoons (approximately) fresh tarragon leaves
1 small clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1-2 tablespoons EVOO
salt and pepper to taste

1. Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium-low heat, shaking the skillet occasionally so they don't burn. When they start to smell fragrant and take on a golden-brown hue, turn off the heat. Let cool a few minutes.

2. Break out the food processor and put in the basil, tarragon, garlic, and parmesan. Process until ground into a sort of dry paste. With the processor still running, stream in the olive oil until the desired consistency is achieved.

3. Season with salt and pepper, and serve however you like - on bread, on pasta, with veggies, on name it.



  1. What a marvelous appetizer this will make. I love the pun on 'pesto' when you say to break out the food processor and 'presto'! ?Intended?

  2. actually it wasn't intended - just in an italian state of mind, i suppose.