There’s nothing quite like pesto pounded by hand with a pestle.
It fills the kitchen with the most delightful fragrance, gives your arms a nice workout, and is indescribably more tasty than anything prepackaged.
Sure, it can be made in the blender or food processor, but you miss an integral part of the process – the part where you connect with your food, the part where you add the love. Try it once, and you’ll see what I mean.
It’s difficult to give exact amounts in a recipe like this, because so much depends upon your taste and the intensity of the ingredients. Try to find a good quality olive oil that doesn’t have such a powerful flavor that it overwhelms the basil. Same with the garlic — young garlic is sweeter and won’t take over the other flavors. If you like more of a pure basil flavor, add Parmesan and pine nuts sparingly, or omit them all together — it’s your call.
makes about 1 cup1 clove garlic
Kosher or sea salt, to taste
3 cups basil leaves
1/4 to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
Toasted pine nuts, if desired
Finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, if desired
Fresh lemon juice, to taste
Place garlic and a good pinch of salt in the mortar; break up the garlic with the pestle. Add basil, olive oil, and pine nuts, if using, in small increments (depending on how much basil can fit inside the mortar), lightly pounding and grinding it into a somewhat smooth puree. Continue the process until all the basil is incorporated. Work in the Parmesan, if using, and season to taste with salt and lemon juice.
Side Note: Pesto can be made in the food processor or blender, but be sure to double the recipe, it’s difficult for the food processor and blender to process small amounts.