Pesto Americano Will Have to Do
Don't mess with Mother Nature, even when she speaks Italian. A recent spate of hailstorms took its toll on Italy's basil crop, which are likely to have an impact on the availability and price of pesto, the beloved green sauce. One of the most hail-damaged areas is just west of Genoa, the Ligurian capital and birthplace of pesto alla Genovese.
Italians are a particular lot; pesto made outside of Genoa cannot be considered the real deal. Given the circumstances, do you suppose they'll let the pesto rules slide this season? Will basil from Sardinia be considered an acceptable substitute?
For those of you with more backyard basil than you know what to do with, count your leafy blessings and think of all those pesto-starved Italians. Perhaps an all-basil dinner party is in order, complete with a batch of stateside pesto. Your Italian guests, too distressed to notice the difference, will give you many mille grazie.
Adapted from "James McNair's Favorites" by James McNair
Word of advice: Taste all of your ingredients before making the pesto. Everything should taste good as you know it. If your oil or nuts are rancid, the pesto will taste "off."
2 cups basil leaves (Genovese basil is best bet)
¼ cup pine nuts (variation: walnuts, almonds)
1 tsp. garlic (at least 1 clove, maybe 2)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (variation: pecorino romano)
Options: Substitute almonds or walnuts for pine nuts. Substitute parsley, mint and/or cilantro for basil
The traditional method is to use a mortar and pestle, but a food processor does the job just fine.
Combine basil, nuts, garlic and whiz. While machine is running, gradually whiz in the oil, until everything is well blended.
Transfer to a bowl and add cheese. Taste for salt. Can be used on the spot or refrigerated for a few days, covered. If you're going to freeze, omit cheese and add after the pesto thaws.
Makes about ¾ cup.
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