Pesto comes from the word pestle. Originally one has to make the sauce using a mortar and pestle careful not to increase the temperature. Pesto is popular during summer when basil is at their most fragrant. I make large batch of pesto every now and then using basil, pistachio, cheese, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. I give these to friends and clients as gifts. It’s appreciated because one cannot find a bottle of Pesto in the Grocery.
The basic ingredient for a pesto is basil and olive oil. You can decide if you want your pesto garlicky, nutty or cheesy, buttery.
The challenge in making pesto is finding fresh ingredients. The second challenge is to delay oxidation which causes discoloration, darkening of the sauce. When you buy your basil or harvest them, they have to be used in 3 days. It’s best to use fresh basil to those who can afford and have time to grow them. Wash in cold water, removing all the stems if possible. Presence of stems causes discoloration. Wash in water and dry using your salad spinner. I remember Heny Sison’s tip – “Resting the leaves in the refrigerator”. Put this in a food processor with extra virgin olive oil together with a fresh garlic, cheese, salt and pepper, nuts. Pulse blend. Among the nuts, pine nuts are least likely to induce oxidation; walnut most likely. These days we decide which nut will go with our pesto. Some would incorporate parsley so the sauce remains green. When we store these, we add an extra inch of olive oil (still to minimize oxidation).
If you find this too complicated and bothersome, use the readily available pesto sauce. When I first opened the cheesy pesto, I cut one corner and poured half of the pouched to my pasta. What I got was just the olive oil part. When I tasted pasty part I find salty. I am reminded to share this experience so you can massage your the pouch before opening it. Transfer it in a bowl. You can spoon this on your pasta, use it as a dip for breads or jazz up your red sauce with streaks of pesto. You can also top this in your soup.
To make your pesto spaghetti, just toss your cooked pasta with the sauce no need to cook. As for the creamy dory, it’s pan fried no salt but top with pesto. Chow!