Pesto Perfecto

| November 7, 2012

pestoSince many foodies in metro NYC are “gastronomically Italian,” we are familiar with pesto, the Italian condiment that is a traditionally a combination of fresh basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and cheeses (usually parmigiano reggiano and/or pecorino romano).  As a lover and true student of pesto, I have researched the technique and the ingredients to truly make Pesto Perfecto.

So what are the “MUSTS”?

First, the quality of the ingredients should be the best. Since it is takes such a small quantity of the more expensive ingredients to elevate a dish, this is the time to invest in the contents. Upgrade to light Liguria olive oil, bright green basil, aged cheeses, freshly peeled garlic and if you can, splurge on Mediterranean pine nuts.

Most pine nuts available in the US are imported from China and grade A is an acceptable alternative, however the nut from the Italian stone pine is the most desired throughout the world for their taste and texture and are known as “pignolias.”  The grade A pine nuts from China are available at Whole Foods and Fairway stocks the Mediterranean variety, which is about 60% more expensive, but well worth the splurge. Both are available at

The key is to balance your ingredients: So here is the basic recipe which can be multiplied for your personal needs;


30 leaves fresh basil

1 clove of garlic

1 ounce of pine nuts

1-1/2 ounces of parmigano reggiano,

1 ounce of pecorino

5 ounces of light olive oil

¼ tsp. kosher salt


Remove the basil leaves from the stems and clean in a bowl of cold water, the rinse in a colander and fold in a paper or cloth towel to dry naturally. Remember that basil is a fragile herb and needs to be handled carefully, so do not squeeze the leaves. Roughly chop the garlic.

Put pine nuts into a food processor and run at high to release the nut oil.  Add basil, garlic and salt and pulse to blend.  Gradually add the olive oil and finally the cheeses and keep pulsing until blended.  An alternative is to use a mortar and pestle but be sure to add the ingredients in the same order.

Pesto can be refrigerated for up to five days by topping the mix with ¼ inch of olive oil and covering with a tight lid or it can be kept in the freezer.

Here is my favorite way to store pesto; in the fall when fresh basil season is waning, I make pesto in quantity and freeze it in ice cube trays so I can pop out the ideal portion to mix into pasta marinara, add flavor to a bowl of vegetable soup or spread on a margarita pizza to give it that taste of summer when the weather turns frigid.



Charlotte Goldblatt