A basil sauce with olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese.
For a born and bred Ligurian as I am, small-leaf Ligurian basil, grown in a tiny herb garden where a strong sea breeze can sometimes blow, is undoubtedly the best, and only one worth using for making Pesto... However, having lived so many years far from Liguria, I have adapted to using different basil varieties, with larger leaves and a slightly minty aftertaste.
Only the most tender basil leaves should be used for making Pesto, possibly picked before the plant starts to flower.
A blender or food processor will be very useful to make the sauce. A marble mortar and a wooden pestle would be even better, because the metal blades of the blender do affect the taste of the basil, but it will take the cook with traditional utensils too much time to achieve the final result.
Rinse the leaves briefly only if they are very dirty. Otherwise use a wet towel to clean the leaves, then pat them dry between 2 paper towels.
Drop the garlic into a food processor and finely chop it. Stop the motor, add the pine nuts and basil, then process until it is chopped. Gradually add the grated cheese and work the mixture into an evenly blended paste. Finally, slowly mix in the olive oil, until a creamy, but thick consistency is achieved. It is preferable to add the salt only later, when pouring the sauce over the pasta, to avoid the darkening of the basil.
Transfer the pesto to a small bowl and add olive oil just to cover it to prevent the oxidation (and darkening) of its surface. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and chill until ready to use.
The pesto keeps up to 10 days in the refrigerator or 2 months in the freezer. Remember to top up with olive oil every time you use it, to prevent oxidation.
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