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Why did my Pesto have so much kick?

z
zeprosnepsid Sep 27, 2007 12:21 PM

I made Pesto last night, following the basic recipe (basil, pecorino romano, garlic, olive oil, toasted pine nuts) and it tasted pretty good, but it had a serious kick to it. Like a bit of spiciness. At first I just thought it was because Pecorino Romano is really sharp, but I tasted the cheese itself this morning and sure it was sharp and salty but not with this kick that the pesto had.

Anyone have any idea what caused it? Did I maybe put in too much or too little of something? I think I burned my pine nuts a little -- would that have caused this?

Or does anyone have any ideas how I could bring down the spiciness? I've been thinking of mixing in a little Spinach with my Basil or a little Parmesean with my Pecorino Romano, would this tone down the kick?

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    DMW RE: zeprosnepsid Sep 27, 2007 12:26 PM

    Perhaps the garlic was very strong?

    1 Reply
    1. re: DMW
      monavano RE: DMW Sep 27, 2007 12:29 PM

      I think it's the garlic too. Maybe use less next time? I know that when I buy garlic fresh from the farmers market it really kicks! HUGE flavor compared to grocery store garlic.

    2. C. Hamster RE: zeprosnepsid Sep 27, 2007 12:30 PM

      It was more than likely the garlic. Raw garlic can be "spicy," like you describe. Cheese can be sharp, but not really in that way.

      2 Replies
      1. re: C. Hamster
        z
        zeprosnepsid RE: C. Hamster Sep 27, 2007 12:34 PM

        Thanks to everyone for the replies! I generally like garlic and recipe said 1-2 cloves. So I put in two cloves, but honestly they were very big cloves. I'll try it with less next time!

        1. re: zeprosnepsid
          Glencora RE: zeprosnepsid Sep 27, 2007 12:37 PM

          I know exactly what you mean and am sure it's the garlic. You could try using one raw clove and one roasted. I often do that to cut down on the bite.

      2. n
        Nyleve RE: zeprosnepsid Sep 27, 2007 12:33 PM

        May have been the garlic, but it could also have been the basil. I find that late-season basil can start to taste a little bitter and concentrated. I just made a batch of pesto (like half an hour ago) and I know that the stuff I made today tastes nothing like the stuff I made in July.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Nyleve
          Glencora RE: Nyleve Sep 27, 2007 12:41 PM

          Late-season basil can taste and smell a bit like licorice, too.

          1. re: Nyleve
            manraysky RE: Nyleve Sep 27, 2007 12:46 PM

            That's what I was thinking, too. There's a lot of variation in basil, and sometimes it is really strong.

          2. c
            charlesbois RE: zeprosnepsid Sep 27, 2007 12:38 PM

            Did you know there are various varieties of basil, one of which is extremely spicy? I can't remember if it is called cinnamon basil or pepper basil, but it has a purple tinge to it.

            Way overtoasting the pine nuts would just make them a bit bitter.

            Spinach should dull down the intensity of an overly-potent basil. Loads of people add spinach.

            2 Replies
            1. re: charlesbois
              goodhealthgourmet RE: charlesbois Sep 27, 2007 12:50 PM

              holy basil.

              it's peppery, yes, but not really 'spicy.'

              definitely sounds like it was a garlic issue.

              1. re: charlesbois
                z
                zeprosnepsid RE: charlesbois Sep 27, 2007 12:51 PM

                I don't know anything about basil, but I'm learning!

                I just used the basil from Whole Foods, it was the only one I could find, it just says 'fresh basil'. I still have cheese leftover so I was going to go down to the farmer's market today and get some more basil and give the recipe another shot....with less garlic...

                and glen, I like the roasting idea. I've always like roasted garlic and I could see where that might cut down the spice.

                Thanks again everyone!

              2. z
                zeprosnepsid RE: zeprosnepsid Oct 8, 2007 12:03 PM

                FOLLOWUP! It was, of course, the garlic. Cutting down made the Pesto taste just right.

                We tried the basic recipe (basil, pecorino romano, garlic, olive oil, toasted pine nuts) substituting some spinach for some basil and substituting walnuts for pine nuts. The spinach definitely didn't add anything (except for some vitamins and minerals) and overpowered even the strong pecorino romano. The walnuts made for a very pleasant sauce, but we like a lot more flavor and will be sticking with the pine nuts.

                Thanks to everyone for their help!

                The pesto odyssey continues...

                4 Replies
                1. re: zeprosnepsid
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                  theSauce RE: zeprosnepsid Oct 9, 2007 10:37 AM

                  If you like your pesto on the light garlicky side, try boiling your garlic to get the intense flavor out before blending.

                  1. re: zeprosnepsid
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                    nealhbeck RE: zeprosnepsid Oct 9, 2007 11:12 AM

                    You can boil the garlic, but I usually roast it for a few minutes in a hot frying pan. Just throw the cloves (still in their paper) until they start to brown and then they peel easily. I prefer the lighter, sweeter flavor in my pesto instead of the spiciness of raw garlic. I also toast the pine nuts, but that's another story!

                    1. re: nealhbeck
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                      funkluvah RE: nealhbeck Nov 6, 2008 02:53 PM

                      i know this is an old thread, but if anyone is lurking, i too screwed up my pesto and its soooo strong. how can i salvage it? aside from using it in very small amounts while cooking with it. should i buy more basil and make a larger batch? or is this futile and a waste. should this be a live and learn experience?

                      1. re: funkluvah
                        c
                        cocktailhour RE: funkluvah Nov 6, 2008 03:56 PM

                        Do you think it is strong because of the garlic? then yes,I would make another batch without garlic (or less garlic) and mix the two together to soften it.

                  2. jezebeljones RE: zeprosnepsid Nov 7, 2008 09:53 AM

                    I make pesto frequently and have had this problem also. I now use very little garlic in my pesto, and add lemon juice and lemon zest. You can aways taste at the end and add more garlic, but you can't take it out. Also, I have used cashews instead of pinenuts--the texture was like velvet, and the flavor was awesome. Use tons of basil--esp. the flowers if you can find them.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jezebeljones
                      greygarious RE: jezebeljones Nov 7, 2008 10:18 AM

                      I've got a large amount of too-strong pesto and didn't want to mix it into an even-larger batch, so when using it I've slowly simmered it in light cream before tossing with pasta or other ingredients. This changes the dish, since the pesto is no longer raw, but it's considerably mellower.

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