Marcella Hazan is the chef that taught me how to cook authentic Italian. She was tough and demanded authentic ingredients and no short cuts, but the recipes are timeless and still work today as well as them did 20 years ago. If you want one cookbook on Italian cooking, you can’t go wrong with her classic, “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking”.
Summer is the perfect time to make pesto. With all the rain we’re been having, my basil in pots has been going crazy.
There are many recipes for pesto, but I think Marcella gets the balance just right. I make a small change, because I’m not a huge fan of pine nuts. I’ve even seen authentic recipes from Genoa where they use walnuts, but I love pecans, so that’s my hack.
1 lb Pasta, I think Spaghetti, linguine or spaghettini work best. But if you can’t manage that, fusilli, orecchiette or farfalle can work too.
2 cups basil leaves, tightly packed
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic, crushed with flat side of your knife and finely minced
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
4 Tbsp Pecans or Walnuts or pine nuts if you like them.
2nd Set of Ingredients
3 Tbsp Butter
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/4 cup finely grated Romano
Put all the first set of ingredients into a food processor and pulse until you get a smooth consistency. Then transfer into a bowl and fold in the second set of ingredients by hand until the mixture is smooth and put into the refrigerator. I find it improves after about one hour.
Take your pesto out of the refrigerator. Start the water for pasta, give it at least 1 Tbsp of salt. Once it’s boiling add in your pasta.
About 4 minutes before the pasta is done scoop out some hot pasta water and set aside.
Cook the pasta for another 2 minutes, drain and add the pasta back to the cooking pan. Add the pesto and a splash of the pasta water over medium low heat and stir to coat the pasta for an additional 2 minutes. You may not need all of the reserved pasta water. Serve with additional cheese as desired.
Note: If you have the time, any of the nuts can benefit from a roasting in the oven. Just put on a cookie sheet in a preheated oven at 325F for 5-6 minutes and then let them cool.