Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Home Made End-of-Summer Pesto and Not Only

Now that you have found, collected and shelled a bagful of pine nuts (or maybe, hmmmm, you just went out and bought some) go ahead and reward yourself with a delicious pine nut treat.

I always think of pesto sauce when I think of pine nuts even though the main ingredient is fresh basil leaves. Maybe I think of pesto because I like pasta so much and this classic from Italy's Ligurian Coast goes so well with it! Purist Ligurians will tell you that pesto should be served over trofie, a twisted, flour and water pasta, maybe with the addition of green beans and sliced potatoes. 

Other pesto purists will tell you that you should only hand chop all of the ingredients or smash them in a mortar and pestle (pesto gets its name from the Italian word pestare to smash or crush).

I'm a purist up to a point: I want to make sure that I am using the best quality and freshest ingredients I can find (what's fresher than hand-picked pinoli and home-grown basil?) while at the same time trying to get dinner on the table for two other humans and into bowls for three furry friends. So for me the food processor works just fine.

The basic procedure for making pesto - grind leaves, nuts, garlic into a paste and thin with oil - can be applied to a variety of other combinations of greens and nuts. 

One of my favorite "pestos" is made with peppery arugula leaves and almonds. This is such an easy pasta sauce (or even topping for bruschetta) and all of the ingredients except the arugula are things you may already have in your refrigerator or pantry! And best of all, you can literally prepare it in the time it takes to boil the pasta! 

The finished product!

Homemade Pesto

4 cups fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic, smashed slightly
2-3 tablespoons pine nuts (pinoli)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup grated parmigiana cheese
Salt to taste

First decide if you will be using a mortar and pestle to make your pesto or a blender or food processor. Purists will opt for the mortar and pestle.

Add the basil leaves, garlic and pine nuts recipient of your choice and begin smashing or pulsing until the mixture has the consistency of a slightly rough paste.

Slowly add the olive oil and parmigiana cheese until the mixture becomes a loose paste; add salt to taste.

The pesto is now ready to serve over pasta or can be frozen for future use. 

Makes about 1 cup of pesto

Arugula and Almond Pesto

About 4 cups of fresh arugula leaves
2-3 tablespoons raw almonds
Pitted black olives, Greek or Gaeta are best, optional
1 small clove garlic, optional
1 or 2 sun-dried tomatoes, optional
Chili pepper, optional
¼ to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Freshly grated Parmigiana cheese

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, pulse together the arugula, almonds, black olives, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and chilli pepper until the mixture becomes a slightly smooth paste.  

Slowly add the extra virgin olive oil in a slow stream until mixture loosens a bit.

Slightly before pasta is done cooking, add about ¼ of the pasta water to the pesto mixture and pulse.

Salt to taste.

Toss immediately with the hot pasta and serve with freshly grated parmigiana cheese.


  1. I buy a bag of arugula to mix into salad with lettuce and other veggies. The pesto will give me the option to use this tasty peppery arugula another way. Can't wait to try it.

  2. Replies
    1. Try the Arugula-Almond pesto...it's really one of my favorite toppings for pasta/spaghetti. I always have all of the ingredients on hand so it really on takes about 10 minutes to prepare!