I know, it’s Autumn and pesto is a summer thing. I had a huge bunch of beautiful basil and decided that, despite the cold and rain, it was a good day to make pesto. Extra pesto freezes well in ice cube trays for use over the winter in soups, stews and casseroles. I think there may be a grilled chicken pizza on the menu this winter with pesto sauce. Let me say right now that I am not a pesto purist. I take liberties that no self respecting Italian grandma would take. But, I am not an Italian grandma so it’s ok.
According to tradition, to make good pesto you need a marble mortar, a wood pestle, and a great deal of patience to mash, grinding with a rotary movement, basil, garlic, pine nuts and pecorino cheese until they become a fragrant cream which is finally amalgamated with good oil,” or so says the Montanini Conserve Alimentari in Parma, Italy.
“All you need to make a good pesto is fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, pecorino romano, olive oil and a food processor,” so says I.
I added to the entree a chicken steak which is just a boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded to uniform thickness, seasoned with salt and pepper and flash fried in extra virgin olive oil until cooked through.
I continue in my scofflaw attitude about pesto, in that I add parsley in place of some of the basil. Sometimes it is just a bit overpowering with the pungent garlic and basil. The parsley tones it down. Some people add walnuts, I don’t. The pine nuts work fine for me as the only nut invited to the party. I use a good amount of garlic but nowhere near what some recipes call for. I am judicious with the amount of olive oil as well, falling even farther from pesto grace by using extra light olive oil in place of the usual extra virgin olive oil. I like the milder flavor with the other strong ingredients. I just wanted to get all that out in the open, lest the pesto police are reading. Someone once criticized an Italian recipe I posted, stating that the sauce should always be mixed with the pasta, never served on top as I had done. That person knew because they worked in the kitchen of local Italian chef and legend, Biba Caggiano. Are you kidding me? I am not even qualified to eat in that restaurant much less profess to cook like Biba. So, I have to be careful. They are out there.
Here’s how it is done at the Buck ‘N Run Ranch.
I served mine mixed with al dente linguine, with the chicken steak on the side, garnished with shaved parmesan cheese. My Herbed Focaccia Bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil was the perfect accompaniment.
Not traditional, not even the right season, but, oh so good! Or Mangia! Mangia! as they probably say at Biba’s.
- ½ cup pine nuts
- 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
- One large bunch fresh basil leaves
- Two handfuls of flat leaf Italian parsley
- Extra Light olive oil, about a cup or to the consistency you like
- ¾ cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
- ½ tsp salt
- Cracked black pepper to taste
- Add the pine nuts, garlic, basil, and parsley to the food processor. Pulse until a thick green paste forms. With the food processor on, slowly pour the olive oil through the tube until you like the consistency. Add the cheese and pulse to mix. Add the ground pepper and taste before adding salt. The cheese may have been salty enough.