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pesto bliss (per the nyt)

so what could the secret be here?


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  1. Attention to detail, and great ingredients.

    1. And the Om in the food processor.

      1. My new favorite is pesto made with fresh mint and parsley, pistachios, olive oil and salt. Will be trying it next week on gnocchi using the recipe in the same issue of the NY Times.

        1 Reply
        1. re: escondido123

          Glad to see that someone else uses pistachios in a pesto! I make a pesto with basil, parsley, and lemon (both juice and zest)' along with garlic and olive oil. A nice pesto for those avoiding dairy. I just used some from last years batch that I had in the freezer.

        2. It's pretty untraditional with the addition of parsley. I make mine in the VitaMix, which gives it a silkier texture than the food processor. I think the VitaMix way is more similar to traditional pesto made in the motar and pestle. Those also tend to be very silky in texture.

          15 Replies
          1. re: roxlet

            these are the same ingredients I have been using for my whole pesto career. Ed Giobbi and I believe marcella both call for parsley (my recollection is that they say to reinforce the green element) and the pine nuts are unroasted as well. of course the devil is in the details with this type of recipe. the type of basis, the carefulness of excluding the bitter flowers, the exact proportions etc. We started with a blender and I still think the product was better flavored than the FP version we do know, but my taste buds were younger too!

            1. re: jen kalb

              Jen, Marcella's "Classic" does not even mention parsley, though she does call for butter; Fred Plotkin's many local Ligurian recipes vary mostly in their combinations of nuts (walnuts and/or pinoli) and cheese (parmigiano and/or pecorino) . He does suggest parsley can and sometimes is added to freshen the green. Here, as posters have noted, quality ingredients, time, and attention to detail are the keys. I might fuss a bit about using younger or smaller basil leaves to avoid that heavy mintiness, but it's, as you say, a very well-worn and simple recipe. Kudos to the Buddhapestos for carving out a neat business. but pesto's so easy to make, I don't know why I'd buy theirs. But it is neat to see what was once (in the 80s) so ubiquitous a marker of foodiness that it became a parody of itself, still show signs of coolness.

              1. re: bob96

                The parsley really surprised me, as did the lack of roasting for the pinenuts (I swear my own is far better when I take the time to roast and I like to use them warm to melt the parm a bit) and the lack of lemon juice (a key ingredient for me).

                I actually prefer more mature basil too or I find the basil gets lost.

                The sound is key. I don't even taste test until I hear a pretty whir over garlic clunking around.

                1. re: bob96

                  Heres the recipe I posted a few years back. its been a while since I have cracked the books on this. ps I note this does not include the butter added at the finishing stage

                  , the small recipe first then the bulk method for the food processor or blender.(credit to Ed Giobbi and marcella H)

                  Recipe to serve 6:
                  for making the paste:
                  2 cups fresh basil leaves (no stems or flowers or little top stem leaves- when basil blooms, it gets bitter), gently packed.
                  handful of parsley leaves (to accentuate green color)
                  2 tbsp pine nuts
                  2 cloves garlic. peeled and cut roughly
                  1/2 cup olive oil

                  for adding when the dish is assembled:
                  1/2 c freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano or grana padano cheese
                  2 tbsp freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
                  salt to taste

                  Put the garlic cloves in the blender or food processer and chop, then add the basil and parsley, pine nuts on top (weigh it down) start the motor, and add oil blending gradually until a paste forms and all the leaves are smoothly incorporated - it will still be grainy looking but no big pieces of anything.. You may need to scrape down the sides a bit before this happens.

                  When you are ready for use, stir in the cheeses and salt to taste - some butter or ricotta can be added if liked.
                  The pesto can be served with dry or fresh pasta, and is particularly good when some thinly sliced potatoes and frenched green beans are added to the pasta while cooking.

                  Bulk method: I usually make this in bulk without measuring the leaves - first put into blender or processor 4-6 cloves of garlic, chop, then stuff the machine full of basil leaves, add a large handful of the parsley and a cpl handfuls of the pine nuts and start the motor. Add oil slowly - as much as needed until it amalgamates into a nice paste

                  Storage - The usual way to prevent oxidation (blackening) and spoilage is to cover the finished pesto with olive oil.I usually pack the pesto into small plastic freezer boxes - after it is solidified sufficiently, I add a thin layer of olive oil. Recently I have covered the top before freezing with plastic wrap which I remove to add the olive oil. We just cut slices off these cubes to use. You can also store in refrig, with a good covering of olive oil, but you have to make sure that the jar is clean and that the pesto is recovered with oil after use- pesto smeared down the side of the jar will cause spoilage and oxidation.

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    Thanks, Jen. I'm saving this one for when (soon) I try (again) to put up a batch. May I recommend a related pesto recipe from Rosetta Costantino, author of My Calabria--it's an amazing crema di zucchine that purees braised zucchine and onion and garlic with lots of basil and parsley.. It makes an addictive, and easily scalable, condimento.

                    1. re: bob96

                      Thanks for that link, bob96. The crema di zucchine looks terrific.

                      1. re: bob96

                        that sounds good for me - especially since I struggle with liking zucchini sometime (except when all the water is removed)

                      2. re: jen kalb

                        Ive tracked back through my books that I had back in the 70s when I started making pesto. The recope above is basically marcella's (from Classic), with the addition of the parsley from Giobbi.
                        marcella adds butter - giobbi's rec does not but his spaghetti al pesto recipe - which includes sliced potatoes and green beans in addtion to the pesto, also includes butter
                        It looks like I got the idea of blanching the basil from Wolferts 1977 Mediterranean book, which offers a recipe from Nervi that is basically otherwise the same as marcella and giobbi (without the parsley) but also included 2-3 tbsp of cream.
                        none of these recipes call for roasting the pine nuts.

                        1. re: jen kalb

                          Good sleuthing there, Jen!

                          I just tried the technique of blanching the basil this week, and the main thing I didn't like about it was that the amounts seemed off because of the degree to which the blanched basil seemed to become less in quantity once it was blanched. I know there wasn't less basil, but it looks that way, and I seem to have used too much cheese, which I processed with the pignoli before I blanched the basil. But I love that it does stay green and doesn't oxidize. My son loves pesto as a spread on sandwiches,and this will work fine for that application. Since I have that Wolfert book, I'll check out her methods and quantities. Looks like I'll have to do something I have never done before in making pesto: measure!

                          1. re: roxlet

                            its not really less in quantity of course since you measure before you blanch - it just loses its fluffiness and some water content. I never put the cheese in until the time of use, however., so what I freeze is the basil-garlic-oil-pignoli paste. the rest is added at the time of use.

                            1. re: jen kalb

                              Well, since I use it also as a sandwich spread, it wouldn't work for me to add the cheese later...

                    2. re: jen kalb

                      Many years ago, I had a boyfriend from Italy, and he was a fanatic when it came to making pesto. He would only use the tiniest leaves on the basil, and throw the rest away. They were too strong for his taste. BTW, Marcella doesn't use parsley. What I do when I make pesto, is start with the FP to get he ingredients somewhat amalgamated. I then transfer to the Vita Mix. It makes a big difference, IMHO.

                      1. re: roxlet

                        Thats right, Marcella doesnt use parsleybut Ed Giobbi does...I think its odd to only use the smallest leaves, since basil leaves typically get bigger and bigger until the plants move toward flowering at which point the leaves start to reduce in size (and those top leaves are bitter) maybe he likes the tinier types of basil best. Certainly what is sold as genovese here has smaller , more delicate leaves than some types.

                        1. re: jen kalb

                          Yes, I'm sure he was thinking of the Genovese. But the little leaves he would use were the leaves on the side of the big leaves.

                  2. My guess is that it is a success because it comes in a jar and it tastes really good and fresh - that's an accomplishment. I never use jarred pesto but might try this one. I will also guess that all of us make great pesto but what would it taste like out of jar 3 weeks later? Have any of you tried jarring your pesto? If so, what were the results?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: athenapo

                      " difficult for the couple to keep up with a summer demand that can be unrelenting"

                      It sounds like her jars might not be sitting on the shelves that long.

                      Does refrigerated plastic container count as "jarred" pesto? There are some decent ones but I don't like any of the shelf stable jarred kinds.

                      1. re: athenapo

                        I was wondering about that. I'm not a fan of the shelf-stable pestos, particularly compared to home-made, and when I make it myself, I usually use it within a day, or freeze it (minus the cheese) for later.

                        If it's being sold and stored at room-temperature, I would think it must need some sort of processing for safety, but pasturizing is going to kill a lot of that fresh pesto taste.

                        1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                          I've used the pesto at Costco a few times a couple of years ago. The taste is OK, but in my opinion seems to taste more like a dip than pesto - as compared to homemade pesto.
                          If I have to have a pesto in the winter and no basil, I'll do a pesto of parsley - not bad.

                      2. I started making pesto with parsley when I lived back east and the basil season was short. If I do make pesto with basil I still add parsley because I now find the basil flavor a little too intense--I also use a wide variety of nuts (walnuts more frequently) because I don't think the pine nuts make a better pesto and they're so expensive.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: escondido123

                          The word 'pesto' to me means greens, nuts, parmesan, oil. Not all greens, of course, but I find nothing out of the ordinary (in my kitchen) to use parsley or basil or a combination. Yesterday I posted a scapes puree picture which all one has to add is the standard nuts, parmesan and more oil.

                          I've used almonds, english walnuts, and even pecans in pesto. Pine nuts are my least favorite, however, I would like to use Italy pine nuts if I could find them.

                          I've used different oil - oils from different countries - yes there is a taste difference.
                          I've used grana padano instead of parmesan reggiano - in fact, sometimes I prefer it.

                        2. Is there really a difference using a food processor versus mortar-and-pestle? I've only tried the FP method.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: amy_wong

                            I was curious about the fact that they do not use extra virgin olive oil. The olive oil that they show in the slide show is Capatrivi, available at ShopRite and currently on sale at that store for a very low price. It is described on the can as a blend of oils from various countries. Does anyone else use non-extra-virgin oil in their pesto?


                            1. re: erica

                              Erica, I'm usually suspect of this evoos from (symbolically) nowhere, sold at rock bottom prices. Sure, blends can be OK, but very often you'll find these small-brand oils to be old, with off flavors, and, even if sound, often much too assertive and rustic for pesto. I don't know this brand, but have been burned ,ore than once with similarly marketed and priced labels. I did check its web site which boasts vaguely of some "family" groves in some unspecified imaginary corner of Italy. If this were an estate oil, you'd have an address. I'd rather stick to Colavita or Monini or DeDecco for relatively dependable every day extra virgins made with Italian olives. That said, pesto really can absorb almost any sound olive oil with moderate, soft, fresh flavors--no need for some big, assertive oil. Any of the reputable Italian (or Spanish arbequina ) national brands, of the latest harvest, would likely work.

                              1. re: bob96

                                Bob that's helpful, and what I suspected. The lack of an address, or even a region of Italy...
                                Not only that, they were selling the giant metal cans for $8.88 at ShopRite!!! I did break down and buy a liter of their extra virgin for the same price, but do not hold out any hopes for it. (Will let you know after I open!!) I guess they are using this particular oil for cost purposes more than anything else.

                                Of those industrial oils that you mention, do you have a favorite? Or in general, do you have a favorite of the inexpensive EVOOs? (I've been shopping at Astoria Greek markets for these but am still experimenting with various brands)

                                1. re: erica

                                  I was chuffed to see that because I use Capatrivi all the time. Why put superduper oil in pesto when its flavor will be overcome by all the other things going on?

                                  1. re: erica

                                    I was down in three guys from Brooklyn and saw the Capatrivi oil, not a brand I had ever noticed before. They spin a yarn about a man giving his coat to a poor man and some special grove of olives - but then the label mentions that the source of the oil is italy. spain, greece etc. i agree that you dont want an extremely characterful or peppery olive oil (like Tuscan or Umbrian) for pesto, but I think I would be happy using the Fairway Taggiasca and ttheir Barberas from Sicily and Puglia, as well as many Spanish and Portuguese oils for this.

                                    1. re: jen kalb

                                      Thanks for your post. I have been trying to describe Tuscan evoo, but now I know from your post that its character is commonly described as peppery.

                                      However, I have used it 'because' it is Italian for the pesto that I usually make, either with basil or parsley or a combination thereof. And, once a year in scapes. But... it is really strong IMO.

                                      Of course, I would not shy away from any other Italian evoo for pesto.

                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                        You're right, Jen, all those choices are great. I forgot to mention one sentimental match, at least as far as being local goes--Olio Carli , a long-standing regional brand from Imperia, which is available at Fairway. This Carli is all Italian, likely with much Puglian or Sicilian, but has a smooth, light flavor that goes well in pesto. The old label design is a plus.

                                2. re: amy_wong

                                  I will tell you something, Amy. I once used identical ingredients to make two batches of pesto: one in the FP and one lovingly ground by hand with a mortar & pestle. The hand-ground one had more irregular pieces, which I thought was fine and lent "authenticity" to the result.

                                  My Italian husband, born in La Spezia (in Liguria, the same region as Genova, Italian pesto epicenter) declared the FP version to be superior in flavor to the hand-ground one. Take that for what it is worth…

                                  1. re: lidia

                                    Oh, those bad blades!

                                    Thanks because I'll never have to feel guilty about that again :-))

                                3. roxlet will probably have a conniption fit but I have been blanching my basil before making pesto (in the blender). If anything it enhances the basil flavor imnsho. Does not discolor in the least, even in the fridge for longiish periods. Jacques Pépin tip. I freeze in freezer bags for longer storage (flattened out). Never parsley, usually walnuts.

                                  15 Replies
                                  1. re: buttertart

                                    I've read many things about blanching the basil, but I never have done it. Doesn't it make the basil slimy? How do you deal with it? Dry it?

                                    1. re: roxlet

                                      10 seconds, throw onto paper towels. I understand from much reading that it gives you emerald green pesto--and they say it doesn't change the flavor.

                                    2. re: buttertart

                                      I started out with the blanching method - the basil is not particularly wet and certainly not slimy after its dunked - this must have been a giobbi tip (I gave the book to my son) and it works fine, but I gave it up after a few years since Im always overwhelmed when I make pesto..

                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                        That's funny! How could the basil not be wet if you're submerging it in water?? Why do you find pesto making overwhelming, Jen? It's a fairly simple process compared to many more complicated things that I know you make from your posts on CH! I think of you as a very advanced and competent cook.

                                        1. re: roxlet

                                          It's wet in the way spinach is wet but not quite as much, somehow. You don't squeeze buckets of water out of it. It's the only way I've found to make/keep it green, mine always went black (regardless of basil type or provenance, including jiu ceng ta basil in Taipei which must be close to the Genovese type, small leaves).

                                          1. re: buttertart

                                            I just remember it steaming slightly and the water running right off of it - I dont remember squeezing it -maybe I will try again this year

                                            usually when I am making pesto its all in the rush because its the end of the season or I see its all going to flower, and I am processing armloads of plants at a time.If I have, say 4 or 5 stuffed food processors worth of basil leaves pluck and work through, an extra step feels like too much. Maybe when I retire and have more time to be in the kitchen...

                                            1. re: jen kalb

                                              i do know what you mean about both aspects.

                                        2. re: jen kalb

                                          Mis en place is my solution for being overwhelmed. In different parts of the day:

                                          Picking thy greens if you have a garden, and then sorting out the greens. To me that is the time consuming job. Walk away for a few hours, if you can.

                                          Come back to the kitchen: Put your bottle of oil on the table, cut up your cheese, take out of the bag the nuts. Hook up your food processor or get out your vita-mixer. Walk out of the kitchen.

                                          Come back to the kitchen: Process everything.

                                          To me the most important tip to making pesto is:

                                          Then wipe out the equipment with a paper towel. I never run water into a food processor that is coated with oil or then I would have a sink full of oil and water then that I would have to clean up. Put the top and bottom in the dishwasher.

                                          This is my method of doing just about anything in the kitchen.

                                          Set up: walk away. Set up: walk away Finally: love of the cooking.

                                          Silly post, I know, but it may encourage someone else.

                                          1. re: Rella

                                            How about putting a bit of dish detergent and water in the FP after you take the pesto out and let it swish around? that can be poured straight down the drain.

                                        3. re: buttertart

                                          1000% yes. This is my secret, too. It improves the flavor and keeps it bright even if frozen.
                                          Just a few seconds' worth of dip into boiling water, dip into ice water and then pat dry.
                                          I am also a religious nut toaster.

                                          1. re: splatgirl

                                            Isn't there an indie band by that name? ;-)

                                            1. re: buttertart

                                              Buttertart, please explain again for me the method (a brief write-up, if you please) that you use for prepping your basil, keeping it green, and then preserving it to keep it from turning an off-color. I'm a bit confused reading thru the threads. My thanks.

                                              1. re: Rella

                                                Pluck basil from stems, throw into appropriate amount of boiling water (say 3 qt for a food processor or blenderful of packed leaves), stir around until all of the leaves have been immersed as briefly as possible, dump into colander, spray with cold water (or dump into big bowl of cold water and ice). Drain, dry off a bit on paper towels, use as you would the unblanched stuff.

                                        4. Saveur had an excellent article on pesto last summer, until I followed their growing directions I could never get close to the same taste as what I had eaten in Genoa.

                                          1. dang, wish I had her expertise (and I'll bet that really is all it is).