Pesto is a divine concoction that was invented in Liguria, and that made this tiny region of Italy famous in the whole world.
Pesto is now a sauce readily available in all US supermarkets but make no mistake: it is so easy to be prepared at home with fresh ingredients that is way, way better to learn how to make it from scratch instead of buying it ready-made. Fresh basil, the man ingredient, has incredible amounts of polyphenolic flavonoids, which make you more resistant to free radicals. And Extra Virgin Olive Oil is one of the most important key ingredients of the Mediterranean Diet: this very simple sauce is in itself the quintessence of the healthy eating habits we are all looking to find without compromising on quality and taste.
The variety of the Basil that you can find in Liguria is very special: Liguria is a land squeezed between the mountains and the sea, therefore all the farming used to be in terraces. Water was (and is) scarce, and for this reason as well the variety of the basil cultivated in Liguria has very small leaves, with a concentrated aroma. Unless you grow your own basil (but be advised: you will need a lot!) you will not find this variety at the grocery store nor at the farmer’s market, the basil you can buy here is sweet basil, with very large, aromatic leaves, but it will serve our purpose all the same.
Pesto sauce has a cousin in the Southern France “pistou”, a sauce which also uses basil as main ingredient but has a very different taste, as it does not include the use of pine nuts. But of course, there are a lot of similarities with the cuisine of our neighbors!
Traditionally, the Pesto had to be made in a mortar, and the basil leaves had to be “squeezed” with the pestle. I completely understand if your life is too busy to spend an hour making pesto – as I do the same, I use a food processor. The only trick is that you have to make a big quantity, otherwise the blades will not have enough to process. But rest assured, once you start making your own pesto you will discover that it has so many different uses that it literally disappears in a blink.
PREMIUM CONTENT for MEMBERS ONLY
For 4 Servings
1 cup Carnaroli rice
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 tablespoons of EV Olive Oil
½ glass of white table wine
1 pint chicken stock preprepared (or vegetable stock)
1 cup rinsed blueberries
1 cup roasted chestnuts or more, chopped in big pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons gorgonzola cheese (optional)