Victor and I both have made pesto for years. It’s one of those things you just make. It’s always good, but sometimes it can be a bit grainy, a bit bitter… I usually just blame the basil.  It never stops me from eating it, but sometimes it’s just not perfect.

Today, Victor found the solution – and it was perfect. Blanching the basil leaves!

We received the latest copy of La Cucina Italiana and there was a cover story about making the silkiest pesto ever. Being the cynic that I am, I rarely believe such claims, but our basil plants overfloweth… Victor decided to make a batch today.

Like most things, you get out what you put into something. The article went into detail about the proper basil leaves (Genovese basil, rarely found in the US), how to prep the leaves (triple washing in cold water and then soaking for 15 minutes or blanching and then plunging into ice water.) The soaking/blanching removes bitterness and the unwanted licorice notes. It also helps set the vibrant green color.

The La Cucina article detailed freezing the glass – not plastic – blender jar, using a microplane to grate the garlic and cheese, and shaking but not completely draining the basil. The little bit of extra water helps in emulsifying the sauce.

The extra steps really made for a perfect dish. I’m hooked.

Pesto alla Genovese

6 cups loosely packed basil leaves
1/3 cup pine nuts, preferably Italian
1/3 small garlic clove
1/2 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
2/3 cup pecorino romano cheese

Place blender jar in freezer to chill. Soak basil in a large bowl of cold water; let stand 5 minutes. Lift leaves from water. Repeat two more times using a rinsed bowl and fresh water each time. Rinse bowl again and fill with cold water. Soak the cleaned leaves in the water, 15 minutes or quickly blanch and immediately plunge into ice water.

Combine nuts and garlic in chilled blender jar and add the olive oil. Purée until nuts are very finely chopped and mixture is creamy. Add salt.

Lift a handful of basil from water, shaking off excess water from leaves and add to blender. In four additions, Use 3 or 4 short pulses and purée just to combine (do not overblend). Add cheese, then, using 2 or 3 very short pulses, purée just to combine.

Place in bowl and cover with a thin film of oil.

I mixed a bit with rigatoni and froze the rest.



I browned bone-in chicken breasts in a bit of olive oil, added about a half-cup of red wine, plum tomatoes and basil from the garden, a bit of garlic powder, salt and pepper. I covered the pan nd let it simmer on the stove for about 40 minutes. I took out the chicken and reduced the sauce a bit and served it over the top.

It was all over the top! The tomatoes were really sweet and the pesto was perfection.

I need to come up with a few more ideas for using this!