Italian Sauces – Pesto

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 36,553
    Chef Amy Riolo demonstrates how to make Italian pesto sauce.

    Amy Riolo:Hi, I am Amy Riolo and today we are making italian Basil Pesto Sauce. The first thing that we will need for our Basil Pesto is three cups of fresh basil which has been washed and dried and it can be loosely packed. We need a cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil and for this recipe I would really splurge and get one of the better varieties of extra virgin olive that you can find. They have two very good varieties here at Sur La Table, but you want to look for something that's first cold pressed and also something that is extra virgin. First cold pressed means that it comes from literally the first pressing of the olives. So it's going to have the strongest most concentrated flavor and since Pesto sauce is not cooked it's eaten raw, you can really taste all of the different flavor notes that are in the first cold pressed olive oil. What even better if you can find it is unfiltered olive oil because unfiltered olive oil is not filtered. It's still has a little bit of that olive sediment in the bottom and it isn't cooked.

    So it is perfect for this kind of recipe of pesto. We are also going to use two garlic cloves which have been finely minced and a quarter of a cup of pine nuts and then we are going to use two kinds of cheeses. We are going to use a quarter of a cup of Parmesano Reggiano and a quarter of a cup of Pecorino Romano. The reason why we are using two different cheeses in this recipe is because it really works, it really gives the sauce a little bit of more depth. As you can see it only has six ingredients in the sauce. So it isn't a lot to begin with. A lot of the American recipes will call for only Parmesan in with the pesto, but we are going to use both.

    Pesto hails from the province of Liguria in North Western Italy and Genoa is the town that it comes from. Genoa in the ancient times was a great Maritime Republic and they did a lot of seafaring, a lot of trading. Christopher Columbus was there and they actually got the pine nuts through the trading in those days and pesto is one of it's most famous products.

    So we are going to start with putting our three cups of loosely packed basil into our food processor. Keep in mind that in Liguria where the Pesto is so famous, they have a very famous basil which they also -- known for and there it's called the Pra' basil, it is spelled Pra' with an accent over the A and the Pra' basil is very famous because it tastes so good. It's very very flavorful and very rich. We can't get that here but it's okay, just look for really small basil leaves. The smaller the basil leaves, the fresher the basil, the better. You don't want to make the sauce with basil leaves which are bruised or with basil which doesn't smell, because if basil smells fresh it is fresh. So only make it in season. You can even freeze it. It's better to make it in the summer. Make a lot of it, freeze it than to go through and try to make it in the winter when the basil is not really good.

    So we are going to add to our basil a cup of olive oil. You can add less or more if you like. Some people like really thin. You can even thin it out with a little bit of the pasta sauce if you are boiling pasta and then we are going to add our garlic cloves. This is two garlic cloves that have been chopped and since we are putting it in the food processor, the food processor is even going to chop it a little more finely for us and then a quarter cup of pine nuts. This gives it nice flavor and helps it really bind together and we are going to add those altogether first and mix them before we go through and add our cheese.

    So now we are just going to pulse on and off and then we are going to let it run for a few seconds. Now we can turn it off and we just let our oil come down to the bottom and we can take our lid off and as I mentioned before pesto sauce is never supposed to be cooked. It really destroy the flavor of the basil and all of those great raw ingredients in there. So keep that in mind when you are adding your different applications and doing different things with pesto sauce.

    So now we are going to add in both kinds of our cheeses. That was the Parmesano and this is the Romano and then we are going to put our lid back on. If you ever want to freeze the pesto sauce then you would freeze it at this stage before you add the cheese. Just take it out. Put it into a little container that has the tight fitting lid, that's freezer safe and put another layer of olive oil on it and put it in the freezer and it lasts for a long time. So a lot of people get basil in the summer they make a lot of pesto sauce and then they put it in regular serving sizes for 4-6 people so that each time they want to make it with pasta it's ready to go.

    So now we are going to turn it on again and that's it. That's our homemade italian fresh basil pesto sauce. So you can see the pesto sauce was also made in the same time that it takes to boil pasta. These are very quick and very delicious. You can use it for your pasta. In Liguria which the pesto originally comes from, they make special kinds of pasta called Troffie and they usually serve the pesto on that kind of pasta. So the fresh Troffie are very good for the pesto and this is what the finished product looks like. In the ancient times they used to make the pesto in actually a mortar and pestel and that's where the names comes from for the pesto sauce but now a days it's very typical, people just make it this way because it can be made so quickly. So when we come back we are going to make our italian garlic oil and chili sauce.