Traditional Pesto alla Genovese is made with seven specific ingredients, basil Genovese, Ligurian extra-virgin olive oil, pine nuts, parmigiano reggiano, pecorino cheese, garlic, and salt.
There are, however, many variations of pesto that are delicious. I find a mixture of vegetables and nuts make a delicious alternative to the original recipe. You can use basil, spinach, kale, and parsley; whatever you have available. Pesto is a great after work dinner choice or for those impromptu guests. It is easy and fast to make, and it also freezes very well. I’m sure you have had to buy a large bunch of basil in your local grocery store when you only needed a handful. Basil, unfortunately, does not last long in the refrigerator. It has been my experience that even when it is put in water, it wilts within 24 hours. So, every time I have too much basil I make pesto and freeze it.
You can freeze about one cup servings that will be the perfect amount for one pound of pasta. To freeze the pesto, spoon one cup, of it into a small glass or plastic container that can go into the freezer. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pesto to keep out the air so that it will not oxidize. You can keep it in the freezer for up to six weeks.
1 – lb. Farfalle pasta
1 – cup packed basil leaves
1 – cup packed baby spinach leaves
2 – cloves garlic
1/4 – cup walnuts
1/4 – cup almonds
1/8 – cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 – tsp. salt
1/4 – tsp. fresh ground black pepper
Pecorino Romano Cheese or Parmiggiano Reggiano
In a food processor, blend the nuts and garlic until finely ground. Add the basil and spinach leaves. As you blend the leaves add the olive oil a little at a time until creamy. If it seems too dry add a little more oil. Add salt and black pepper. I do not add the cheese to the pesto, but add it instead to the pasta when I put it together. Set the pesto aside until the pasta is ready.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once it is boiling, add 1 tsp. salt and the pasta. Stir so that the pasta does not stick together. Bring back to a boil and cook according to the package instructions. If you want the pasta al dente (a little firm to the bite), then check the pasta about 2-3 minutes before the time directed.
In a large serving bowl, add 1/2 cup of the pasta water and the pesto. Mix together. Drain the pasta, but be sure to save one additional cup of the pasta water in case you need it. Add the pasta to the pesto and mix. Add the cheese. If the pasta seems too dry, add a little more pasta water. Serve Immediately.