© 2006 Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Makes enough pesto for 1 pound of pasta

This is best made fresh and eaten on the same day. It will hold a day or so in the refrigerator, but freezing doesn't do the olive oil, cheese, nuts or basil combination any favors. Freeze solely the young basil and make pesto with it when the season is over.

If you want to experience pesto as it's eaten in the land where pesto is king, the city of Genoa and all over the Liguria region, shop for very young basil; stalks should be no more than about 8-inchs tall and there should be no sign of flower buds. Leaves will be tender, even sweet tasting. This is one of those recipes that is worth following exactly. That attention to detail will pay you back many times.

Ligurians will cook a sliced potato and a seasonal vegetable right with their pasta and sauce everything with the pesto—broccoli flowerettes, green beans, fava beans, perhaps peas. And they know adding a little pasta water to the pesto brings the sauce to just the right consistency.

COOK TO COOK: Surprisingly, after tasting basil leaves used by Ligurian cooks and young leaves from standard sweet basil plants (ocimum basilicum) in my garden and the farmer's market, I couldn't find a dramatic difference. Olive oil and cheeses do make a great difference in your pesto. Use a buttery, gentle tasting Ligurian oil like Roi, Rainieri, or Ardoino, and seek out the cheeses mentioned below.

  • 1 large clove garlic, any green center removed

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 2/3 tightly-packed cup young basil leaves

  • 2 heaping tablespoons pinenuts

  • 1/4 cup grated Fiore di Sardo sheep cheese, or American Stella Fontinella

  • Scant 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (Ligurian preferred, such as Roi, Ardioino, or Rainieri brands)

1. In a mortar and pestle, or food processor with the motor running, puree the garlic and salt. Gradually add the basil and then the pine nuts, crushing or processing everything into a rough paste. Pour in the cheeses and finally enough oil to bring the pesto to the consistency of heavy cream. Turn it into a pasta bowl.



Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.