Presto, Pesto!

Oct 11, 2015

When we think of pesto, it's usually the classic basil pesto of Northern Italy, pesto alla genovese, served over pasta.

Food Guy Greg Patent recommends making it with 2 ounces of fresh basil leaves, 1 garlic clove, 1/2 a cup of extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, 2 ounces of grated Parmiano Reggiano cheese, and 1 ounce of Pecorino romano cheese. In lieu of the old mortar and pestle which gave the sauce its name (pestare, to crush or pound), you can dump all the ingredients into a food processor, hit the button, and "whirl away."


Pestos also work as sauces for grilled salmon or steelhead, or root vegetables like potatoes, carrots or turnips. And the world of pestos extends far beyond basil and pine nuts. Here are three pesto recipes from Arthur Schwartz's "Mini cookbook of pesto recipes:" 




1. Trapani pesto, from Sicily:

6 ounces blanched almonds (1 1/3 cups)
3 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups firmly packed fresh whole basil leaves
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 pound very ripe tomatoes (can be cherry tomatoes), washed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2. Caper pesto: this strongly-flavored sauce complements fish or meat better than pasta

4 ounces (2/3 cup) salted capers, rinsed well
2 anchovy fillets
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup loosely packed parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon white or red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3. Cetara pesto, from Italy's Amalfi coast: another strongly-flavored sauce, excellent over root vegetables.

1 rounded tablespoon pine nuts
1 rounded tablespoon walnuts
1 tablespoon almonds
1 large clove garlic
4 loosely packed cups basil, well-washed and dried
1 loosely packed cup parsley, well-washed and dried
3 tablespoons condiment quality extra-virgin olive oil
1 3.5-ounce can or jar of anchovies, drained of oil or 8 to 10 salted anchovies, filleted and rinsed
2 rounded tablespoons salted capers, rinsed and soaked a few minutes in cold water, and drained
Colatura (optional)

(Broadcast: "The Food Guys," 10/11/15 and 10/15/15. Listen weekly on the radio at 11:50 a.m. Sundays and again at 4:54 p.m. Thursdays, or via podcast.)