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Friday, 16 September 2011

Pesto Sauce

Pesto is commonly used in Italian pastas and trust me, no other substitute can match its taste. Basil leaves is one of the main ingredients. Pesto sauce is supposed to have originated in Genoa, northern Italy. Traditionally, it consisted crushed garlic, basil leaves and pine nuts blended with olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano and Fiore Sardo.

Basil leaves: 1 cup
Pine nuts: 3-4 tsp

Garlic: 2-3 pods

Grated Parmesan cheese: 5-6 tsp

Grated Sardinian pecorino cheese: 2 tsp

Rock salt: ¼ tsp

Extra virgin olive oil: 5-6 tsp

Wash the basil leaves gently in plenty of cold water. Make sure that the leaves don’t break or get crushed while washing. Allow the leaves to dry on a towel. 

A friend told me that a marble mortar and a wooden pestle is used to prepare authentic pesto. And many of us use the same back home to crush ginger-garlic, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and other spices in small quantities. And there comes the advantage of having a marble mortar in the kitchen.

Crush garlic and pine nuts in the mortar till they are creamy. Add salt and dry basil leaves, a few at a time, and rotate the wooden pestle delicately against the sides of the mortar. Make sure you never beat the leaves. The delicate rotation of the pestle helps in extracting the essential oils from the basil leaves which are not broken, but are rubbed against the walls of the mortar. Rub the leaves till the sauce is mixed well and basil becomes a fine paste. Slowly add Parmesan and Sardinian pecorino cheese and mix with the pestle. Lastly, add extra virgin oil and mix well till all the ingredients blend well. Use the sauce for any cooked pasta. 

Note: Though grinder can make the sauce in a few seconds, taste definitely changes. 

If you are not using the sauce immediately, store in the refrigerator in a glass container by covering it with a layer of olive oil.

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