Fake pesto, real good


Summertime means fresh basil and pesto chez Parzen. Last night, before me and Tracie P cozied up on the couch for a Saturday movie and some Lini Lambrusco, I whipped up some “fake” pesto with some beautiful basil we found at the Central Market on Lamar.

True pesto is made with Pecorino, pine nuts, boiled potatoes and green beans, and extra-virgin olive oil, ideally from Liguria.

Pan-Italian pesto is generally made with Parmigiano Reggiano and omits the potatoes and green beans. And while true pesto should be milled by hand, using a mortar and pestle, fake pesto is super easy to make: just combine the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until you obtain the desired consistency.

Here’s how I made my “fake” pesto:

Pan-Italian Pesto

serves 4

1 handful pine nuts
1 heaping handful cubed Parmigiano Reggiano
(avoid pre-grated cheese!)
2 small bunches fresh basil (or 1 large bunch)
2 medium-sized cloves garlic, peeled
pinch of kosher salt
¼ extra-virgin olive oil (I love Sardinian San Giuliano)

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and mill using short pulses. Add the olive oil as needed to obtain the desired consistency.

In the meantime, in a large pot, cook the pasta (long noodles, no short pasta!) in generously salted water until slightly undercooked. Before straining, add a few tablespoons of the cooking water to a large mixing bowl. Strain the pasta and transfer to the mixing bowl. Fold in the pesto, reserving a dollop per serving to top the pasta.

Et voilà!

And remember: the chalice from the palace has the brew that’s true! NOT the vessel with the pestle!

10 thoughts on “Fake pesto, real good

  1. gary–we had lini white lambrusco…since we were deviating from authenticity a little. maybe a rossese when make it with the mortar and pestle

    2B–O.M.G. that was SO good! i ate mahself silly!

  2. @Gary it actually paired really nicely with the white Lambrusco (Lambrusco Salamino).

    @Tracie P very geeked for what you’re doing with the leftover pesto tonight… So glad you like my “fake” pesto…

    @Irwin man, I wish you would come out and visit us in Austin and try Tracie P’s cookin! It sure beats the days when you and I were broke and live together, getting by on gefilte fish and spaghetti al pomodoro… Let’s hang when we’re in LJ for Labor day!

  3. errrm… I have to question what you are saying about true pesto. I have lived in Liguria for 1,5 years. And pesto never has boiled potatoes or beans IN it. There is a traditional dish where you combine pasta (best is trofie), pesto, potatoes and green beans; but pesto itself is always made with basil (best from Pra), pecorino and parmiggiano, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic and a tiny amount, if any, of salt (because the cheese is already salty).
    Here is a link to the official pesto Genovese recipe (by the consorzio):

  4. @hande thanks for the link! :-) and yes, it’s my understanding that potatoes and green beans are ingredients in the final assembly of the dish. I am surprised to learn that the pesto consortium includes Parmigiano Reggiano. Thanks for reading and thanks for the info. Later this week, when I have time, I’ll translate the page from the pesto consortium so Anglophones can read it…

  5. Just think, had you writen that song for her six weeks ago, she would have been cooking good food for you sooner, which would have lead to the fake pesto recipe while I had tons of Basil growing. But now that my basil plants ( 18 in all) are on the downside, the leaves are getting tough and less fragrant, you post a recipe!! Ha! I’m gonna go out and “top” them, and see if I can get some tender leaves over the next week or so. Maybe fake pesto for Flaco next week.
    Good Recipe, Jar. Thanks Bud. -Flaco

  6. @Flaco I just wish I was a better singer! But she loves me anyway… ;-)

    I didn’t realize how much interest this post would generate! I will post more later this week…

    Looking forward to seeing ya’ll on Thurs. (Tracie P is cooking before we go to the show).

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