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!