Everything you need to know about making Pesto.
Posted December 3, 2023, 9:45 pm

Hi, Mathew here. 👋

 

So as the story goes, Grobrix all started with Pesto. There was a time when all that my two daughters wanted to eat for dinner was green pasta! Green pasta requires pesto. Pesto typically involves basil. I was getting my basil from the supermarket. It wasn’t particularly fresh. It wasn’t particularly fragrant. I was just pumped that my girls were eating green stuff. 😋 It was the supply issues that were the main problem. The supermarket supply was unreliable. I found myself bouncing from shop to shop, just looking for herbs to make dinner. I knew there had to be a better way to get it. So I started growing it.

 

Pesto Origins and Composition.

Pesto from the word ‘Pestare ’ in Italian, ‘to crush’, harks back to the traditional methods of making pesto using a Pestle and Mortar. Back then, in Genoa, Italians had an abundance of flavourful Genovese basil, which was then used (along with all of their olives and olive oil) to provide the primary flavour agent and aroma to the dish we all know and love today.

Recipe

Whilst a pestle and mortar make for a more authentic experience, my personal preference is to use a hand blender. It’s quick and easy and leaves you more time to sip on a glass of wine. The ingredients are added in the following order and the key to getting a great-tasting pesto is the balance of the four main ingredients, greens, oil, cheese and nuts. As I outline below, the actual specifics of the ingredients come secondary.

 

2 Cups Greens. 

The biggest misconception about Pesto is that you have to use basil. You don’t! You can make pesto from kale, rocket or mustard leaves. Personally, my preference is to use basil with a healthy dose of dill. The dill brings a fresh punch to the dish that I love and makes it unique. Of course, the best place to get your herbs is your own garden. You want the freshest stuff possible! Herbs from the supermarket in a clamshell packet are nearly always a disappointment.

⅓ Cup Cheese. 

You can buy the shredded stuff in a bag OR you can grate your own. As you’d imagine, grating your own stuff works the best but takes a little more time. Recipes typically call for Parmesan or Parmigiano, but you can always substitute in Pecorino. Ever wondered what the difference is between these? Parmesan comes from a cow, and pecorino comes from a sheep. I find the difference to the end product is actually quite modest, and in order to appreciate it, you’ll have to make 2 batches with all other things equal.

⅓ cup Nuts or Seeds. 

Again, conventional wisdom and most recipes call for roasted pine nuts. This does bring a unique earthy flavour to the finished product, but the roasting adds another step to the process and pine nuts are pretty expensive. There are alternatives! Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews or any blend of the above, depending on what you have lying around. 

2 cloves garlic.

Essential. Peel the skin off and drop the full cloves in. The blender will do the rest.

Salt, Lemon.

A good pinch of salt and the juice of half a lemon is what works for me.

½ cup Olive Oil.

Always use the best stuff you can source. Start with a ⅓ cup and add more to get the consistency you want. You can always add more, but you can’t remove it once it’s in! There is nothing worse than runny pesto 🙂 


This is the consistency I tend to look for. Personally, I want the texture, but if you want something that looks more like a puree, then just hold your finger on the blender button for longer. It really all comes down to preference, and the only way that you’ll figure out what you like is to try different methods; there is no right and wrong.


Check out this link to Charlotte Mei’s Asia Pesto twist for more inspiration on how you can make this recipe your own.

Image Credit: The Charlotte Mei

Farmer Mathew

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