I was supposed to be born on my mother’s birthday, April 18th. I was a week late, and she was in labor for 24 hours. I’ve never chosen the easy road. Thats been true in choosing my career as a photographer, my sudden move to New Orleans, my complicated friendships and my more than complicated relationships. If the task is easy or uncomplicated I’m usually not interested. And in truth the hardest things are usually the most rewarding. Why would I do the easy thing, when I could forcibly move a mountain, by myself, just to say that I did it? If sheer willpower alone had a greek goddess, would it be me? This pesto recipe has calmed down in the last several years, unlike my ego. When I first started making pesto I remember reading a recipe that said that to truly be someone’s Italian grandmother you HAD to chop your pesto by hand. While I agree (assuming you have the worlds sharpest knife) that hand chopping your basil and adding in your nuts, cheese, and garlic reduces the bruising and creates a more rounded flavor… just put the damn thing in the blender. It saves you about an hour of chop—chop—chopping your life away and no one can tell the difference.
Pesto by hand or in a blender:
4 cups basil
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup pine nuts
1/2-1 whole head of garlic
1 cup olive oil
To do this in a blender:
Add all dry ingredients into blender and pulse, slowly adding in olive oil until a paste begins to form. I still like my pesto to look like it has separate ingredients but if you want it to be smooth just keep blending.
To chop pesto by hand:
Get the biggest cutting board you have and the sharpest knife you have. You will likely have to work in batches with the basil, but start with half and just start chopping away. When the basil is in quarter inch widths add in the garlic and keep chopping. Then add in the pine nuts—these are a pain to chop. Once your garlic, basil, and pine nuts are all chopped super fine, mix in your grated parmesan. I like to store my pesto in a mason jar, so transfer to a jar, and pour in enough olive oil to just cover the top of the pesto.
I freeze my pesto because I usually make such a huge batch of it. For any pesto novices out there: DO NOT COOK THE PESTO. Prep your pasta and your veggies or meat or whatever else you’re serving with pesto and add the pesto at the last step. If you cook it, the cheese will turn everything into a big gloopy sticky mess. If you want to do a pesto cream sauce, make the cream sauce and then add the pesto at the end.