Perfect pesto

Illustration by Marco Ventura

Photo from Bon Appetit

I just made the most delicious pesto using fresh basil from B's plants. I am very proud of us for actually having fresh herbs in our little house (on a ledge in the guest room nonetheless!).

I know there are a ton of recipes out there, but here's my mother's incredible pesto recipe. She never actually measures anything (eyeballing everything and adjusting as you go really does work best), but I forced her to give me some estimates. Here they are - and don't worry, it couldn't be easier.

2 cups fresh basil leaves (about two of the plastic packages, if you're buying them at the grocery store)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp pine nuts (pignoli)
2 cloves fresh garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 c parmesan cheese
2 tbsp pecorino romano cheese (or if you don't have this, just toss in some more parmesan)
1-3 tbsp butter, softened to room temperature, to make the pesto creamy and smooth

I used a Cuisinart, but a blender works as well. Put the basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt and half of the olive oil in the Cuisinart and mix at high speed. Add in the rest of the olive oil, plus the cheese and softened butter, to the right consistency. Stop from time to time and scrape the ingredients down toward the bottom of the blender with a spatula. Mix until smooth.

The last step - if you're using this pesto for pasta - is to add a tablespoon or so of the hot water that the pasta was cooked in. The starches and water will make the pesto the perfect thickness to go over pasta. If you're using the pesto for a sandwich, as a spread, etc. you can just use it as is (no need to add water).

Mmm, delicious. So Mediterranean, so summery. I think I might use this batch for a pesto pizza, or maybe just spread it on good crunchy bread and have a picnic. There are so many ways to eat pesto - I love this stuff. Enjoy!

Update: it seems my mom originally got the recipe from Marcella Hazan, the renowed Italian cookbook author, so we wanted to be sure to give her due credit. Way to keep me honest, mom!

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