Pesto is Practically Presto!
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Pesto, an herb sauce for pasta, means “crushed or pounded,” and it is one of the simplest Italian dishes.PESTO-300x225 It originated centuries ago in northwestern Italy, in the Ligurian section, where basil grows wild and abundantly. And, it wasn’t long before cooks there were mixing the basil with garlic, cheese, pine nuts and olive oil. It required no cooking.

Just a little pesto can make a whole bowl of pasta a delicious meal, and the cost is very pleasing. Here is a list from which you can build your own pesto, lots of them, no two alike:

GENERAL METHOD FOR ITALIAN BASIL PESTO:

(See suggestion lists below for vegetable, flavoring, nuts and cheese substitutions.)

4 cups greens, classic Italian is basil leaves, trimmed
1 pinch coarse sea salt
2 cloves garlic
½ cup grated cheese
3 to 4 tablespoons good, extra-virgin olive oil

Combine leaves with salt and garlic, keeping the leaves intact.
Next add the cheese, blend a little more thoroughly
Add nuts and chop them.
Lastly add olive oil and mix well, leaving mixture with a slight crunch, not smooth.

Purists want you to make your pesto with a mortar and pestle. The next preferred method is a food processor using only quick pulses. The last choice is a blender, because it is so fast. With each, you have a diminishing control over how much crunch you retain.

You are not bound to the above ingredients when making pesto. From the lists below, simply choose one or more veggies from the first list, then one or two items from the remaining lists using the above method. When you are finished, you want a savory, pungent sauce to compliment pasta or any of the items in the last list.

Here is an example of an Asian pesto:

Add cilantro and mint to some basil, keep the garlic and add ginger root, and substitute peanuts for the nuts and sesame oil for the olive oil. Serve over soba noodles with shrimp and snap peas or other Asian items.

PESTO GREENS – BULK VEGGIES:

Arugula
Asparagus
Basil
Basil with lemon zest/juice
Beans
Bell peppers
Blanched tough greens
Broccoli rabe
Chive, spinach and parsley
Cilantro
Dill leaves and parsley
Flatleaf parsley
Fennel bulb and parsley
Garlic and spinach
Green beans and potatoes
Lettuces
Mint with basil
Mushroom
Olives
Olives
Oregano leaves
Parsley
Peas
Red peppers
Sage leaves and parsley
Sorrel, parsley, ginger root
Spinach
Sun-dried tomatoes with basil

CHEESE:

Asiago
Blue cheese
Cream cheese
Fontina
Goat cheese
Parmesano
Pecorino

NUTS:

Cashews
Peanuts
Pecans
Pine nuts
Pistachios
Walnuts

OIL:

Olive oil
Pumpkin oil
Truffle oil
Vegetable oil
Walnut oil

FLAVOR ACCENT:

Garlic
Cardamom
Chipotle
Cumin
Ginger root
Oregano

When ready to serve, place pesto in ovenproof bowl and place on a warmer. Cooking or microwaving pesto makes it gummy. Quickly place pasta, hot from its boiling water, into the pesto, toss, add more cheese and pepper flakes if desired. Freeze any leftover pesto in meal-sized zip bags.

PESTO AS AN INGREDIENT OR FLAVORING FOR:

Baked potato
Casseroles
Coulis
Couscous
Dip for chips or veggies
Frittata
Garnish appetizers
Grilled cheese sandwiches
Ceviche
Meat and fish baste
Pasta
Pizza topping
Polenta
Quiche
Rice
Roasted vegetables
Salad dressings
Salads
Sauce for seafood
Savory recipe
Scrambled eggs
Soups
Spread on crackers or bruschetta
Stuffed mushrooms
Tabbouleh

About Marty Martindale

Foodsite Magazine and Marty aim to help the cooking-challenged avoid dependence on others due to lack of cooking knowhow. We concentrate on quick breakfasts, portable lunches and “good-4-u” night meals. With readily available web translation, the magazine explains separate foods, a little of their history, their nutrition, suggested “go-withs,” serving ideas and links to foodsites with recipes.

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