Please forgive me for not having updated at all yet this week. I have honestly just been running on fumes and barely able to stay awake during the course of the day – there was just no way for me to stay awake long enough to edit photos and write up recipes after a full day of work. What could possibly have taken such a toll on me, you might ask? Well, on Sunday night, Kramer and I hosted a small get together in our new apartment for the Oscars! It was a lot of fun, and together, Kramer and I made a ton of food, most of which will eventually be featured on this site, so I don’t want to give too much away! It was a big success, though, and I’m fairly certain that everyone in attendance had a good time. Kramer had a nicely stocked bar area set up, and we made fun party food like chorizo and bacon macaroni and cheese (a bit of a twist on one of my favorite recipes) and my famous Magnolia Bakery banana pudding (featured in a beautiful trifle dish that my Aunt Donna gave to me). You can see a bit of our new apartment in this adorable photo of my sister-in-law Rachel and her boyfriend, Eric, and most importantly, you can check out a quick view of my enormous (for Brooklyn) kitchen in this photo of Kramer and our friend, Tom. Just look at all of that counter space! Oooo ahhhh. You can also check it out in this photo of Kramer worrying about how we were going to get all of the food hot and ready in time for the party. We didn’t get much sleep that night, as you might imagine, and as I get older, it’s getting harder and harder to overcome fatigue. I don’t know how I went to class and then work on less than 5 hours of sleep only a few short years ago – I’m definitely finding out the hard way how quickly the human body ages. Oh well – to be young and living in New York City, right? I need to keep reminding myself of that when I feel like I am running out of steam.
This pesto was made for some delicious sandwiches (recipe to follow in a few days) that Kramer and I made for our party. I had never made pesto before, but when I saw the post over on 101 Cookbooks, it looked absolutely irresistible. The recipe stresses that this is exactly how an Italian grandmother would make pesto, and I believe it! All of the ingredients are painstakingly minced together by hand – there is no need for a food processor or a blender. You do, however, need a very sharp knife. I used my 7-inch Shun chef’s knife, but any very sharp knife will do. If you do not have a sharp knife, then this is the perfect excuse to go out and splurge on one – it will pay for itself over and over again as you effortlessly slice through anything on your chopping block, this pesto included. It took me about 25-30 minutes in total to make what amounted to about 1/2 cup of pesto (I doubled the recipe, although this is not reflected in the recipe below), but it was so worth it. I cannot adequately describe the wonder that is this pesto. I was never a huge fan of pesto until I made this one in particular. Because everything is done by hand, the flavors of the fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, and Parmesan can shine through. When you make pesto in a blender, the flavors can often become muddled as they are carelessly pureed together into an unrecognizable mush. Instead, in this pesto, all of the ingredients offer a different texture, all of which come together to dance on your tongue and brighten up whatever you decide to use it in. Not only did we put it on sandwiches, but we also used it as a bruschetta topping as we worked our way through our party leftovers. The flavors in this pesto only develop after 24 hours in the fridge, but it is unbelievably good on the same day that you make it, too. There is no added salt or pepper, just a bit of olive oil to bring it all together. I cannot recommend this pesto enough, and I promise once you try it, you’re going to want to make pesto every week.
You don’t need much in the way of ingredients, just some fresh basil, garlic, nice Parmesan, olive oil, and a handful or two of raw pine nuts.
Start by finely mincing all of your garlic – don’t go crazy yet, there’s a lot of mincing ahead of you!
Roughly chiffonade (thinly slice) a handful of basil. This is easily done by loosely rolling a bunch of basil leaves up like a scroll, then slicing.
Add the basil to the garlic and start chopping away with even pressure, to incorporate the two ingredients together.
Chiffonade another bunch of basil and start chopping away again, incorporating it into the other garlic and basil pile.
Once you have used up all of your basil, add in a handful of pine nuts.
Just keep on chopping. I like to chop, chop, chop, then push everything to the side together, and chop again, going the opposite direction that I was going before, until everything is evenly minced.
Now grab your Parmesan (I was having a party, so I bought a lot of Parmesan – enough for the recipe and for the chef to enjoy while working).
Add half of the Parmesan, continue to incorporate it into the pesto, then add the rest and mince away.
When you are finished, you should be able to pack it all up (without much effort) into a compressed ball.
Pour some olive oil over it in a small bowl and cover, if you like, or use right away. I found that the pesto kept very well, covered in olive oil, in the fridge in a small, air tight container for 4 days – I would even go as far as to say that it was better the next day. I also put it on some sandwiches that I made on one day and ate the next, and it was absolutely wonderful.
Whether you use this on some pasta, as a topping for bruschetta, or on a sandwich, this pesto is incredible and certainly better than something you would make in a food processor or a blender.
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 large bunch of basil, leaves only, washed and patted dry (about 1.5-2 ounces, or 2 lightly packed cups)
- one small handful of raw pine nuts (about 2-3 tablespoons)
- 1 loosely packed cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (if you are looking to use pre-grated Parmesan, you might as well just buy your pesto because there is no point in making it yourself if you are not using fresh ingredients)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Peel and roughly mince all of your garlic. Starting with a small portion of your basil leaves, place one on top of the other, roll them up, and slice into thin strips (otherwise known as a chiffonade), then add it to the garlic and start to chop, incorporating the basil fully into the garlic. Grab some more leaves, chiffonade, and add them to the garlic and basil. Continue doing this until you run out of basil and the garlic and herbs are very well minced.
- Sprinkle your pine nuts over the garlic and basil. I used a bit more pine nuts, but that's because I love them and it was hard for me not to eat the whole container of them while I was working. Start to mince some more, incorporating the pine nuts into the garlic and basil. Pine nuts are soft, like cashews, so they will be easy to chop.
- When the pine nuts are incorporated, add in half of your Parmesan. Continue chopping, and when incorporated, add in the rest of the Parmesan and chop until everything is very, very, very finely minced. When you are done, you will be able to easily form the pesto into a "loaf" or a ball, as I did. After shaping the pesto, place it in a bowl or container and pour 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil over it. The pesto can stay like this, in an air tight container, until you are ready to use it, for up to 4 days. You can also use it in pasta, as a spread for sandwiches, or as a bruschetta topping. It is delicious on almost anything, and doing it by hand instead of using a food processor allows for lots of great textures and flavors from all of the fresh ingredients.