Friday, August 13, 2010


How many times have you avoided making a dish because it had a bad rep for being difficult? Or because you didn't have the recommended equipment? You just might be missing out on gastronomic heaven. One of my most favorite foods of all time is the infamously temperamental cheese souffle (which, by the way, is incredibly easy to make) so I should know better than to dismiss a recipe outright. Nevertheless, last year was the first time I've ever made pesto from scratch. Why I thought it required chef-status to make, I don't know. Such simplicity, such deliciousness!

So we planted six, yes six, basil plants this year with big plans. Big Basil-y, Garlic-y, Nutty, Cheese-y Pesto Plans. No, no, I don't own a food processor. Never have. And earlier this year I shattered the glass pitcher of our blender. No, no, we haven't replaced it yet. And, oh yes, our basil plants have all thrived.

Trust the internet, the cookbooks or the television and you'd think making pesto without either of these supposed requisite items impossible. So what's a girl to do? Take a page from an Italian grandmother's cookbook: Get out some hand-powered kitchen tools and elbow grease. It's vintage pesto!

The results? I added a side of pan-roasted Brussels sprouts (in bacon grease of course) and the 4-year-old declared, "Mommy, you make a mean dinner." Sounds like success to me.

Vintage Pesto
No special requirements for this recipe, just a sturdy cutting board and sharp knife. A hand-crank nut grinder comes in handy to kick-start the nuts, but you don't need it. Because the ingredients haven't been emulsified by power blades, the texture and taste are more distinct, brighter, and richer. Totally worth the little bit of extra time it takes to do it by hand.

3 cloves garlic
3 loose cups basil leaves (just the leaves)
1/8 cup roasted almonds (or walnuts or pine nuts)
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmesan)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Finely chop the garlic. Take the basil in batches and finely chop in with the garlic. Add the roasted almonds and finely chop to combine. Chop in the grated cheese and press the mixture into a small bowl. Cover with the olive oil. Stir to thoroughly combine just before use.


Mon said...

oh yeah baby! lol
i'm a huge pesto fan. just thrown over pasta is delish.

i'm lazy with such things and like my hand blender (trick is to blend for a short time), but yes, vintage pesto sounds such a gorgeous way to have fun in the kitchen.

no basil plants yet, hopefully next year.

Alison said...

We have basil this year too and I've so enjoyed using it in pesto, primavera, etc. etc. Fun and delicious!

debbiedas said...

We also plant an insame amount of basil because we are all huge pesto lovers here. Jamie Oliver actually advises against using bladed instraments to make pesto; a good ol' mortar and pestle is all he recommeneds. Vintage Pesto looks amazing; a must try.

DJ said...

Insert Homer Simpson's gluttonous and ravenous gurgling right HERE. :-)