Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Marcella Hazan's pesto

For many of us, a hotter-than-normal summer has spurred basil to grow lushly in our gardens. This is a wonderful way to use that bounty.

Pesto by the Food Processor Method
- from the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

For the processor:
2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine before putting in the processor

For completion by hand:
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated romano cheese
3 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature

1-1/2 pounds pasta

1. Briefly soak and wash the basil in cold water, and gently pat it thoroughly dry with paper towels.
2. Put the basil, olive oil, pine nuts, chopped garlic, and an ample pinch of salt in the processor bowl, and process to a uniform, creamy consistency.
3. Transfer to a bowl, and mix in the two grated cheeses by hand. It is worth the slight effort to do it by hand to obtain the notably superior texture it produces. When the cheese has been evenly amalgamated with the other ingredients, mix in the softened butter, distributing it uniformly into the sauce.
4. When spooning the pesto over pasta, dilute it slightly with a tablespoon or two of the hot water in which the pasta was cooked.

Freezing pesto: Make the sauce by the food processor method through the end of Step 2, and freeze it without cheese and butter in it. Add the cheese and butter when it is thawed, just before using.

If you don't already own it, Marcella Hazan's cookbook, full of simple and delicious ways to prepare food, is an essential for your kitchen. This plate features both her pesto and her oil and vinegar dressing. Thanks to my sister- and brother-in-law for bringing this pesto (made from homegrown basil) from their Princeton kitchen. It made for a lovely meal to end the day.

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