Hi ho, TheBEEF! here with a simple Eyetalian style dish that is not as oily as standard pesto sauce. The number one complaint I get from a lot of people involving pesto is that it is too oily and it is messy etc... This is mostly true and many restaurants have removed Pesto from their menus because of such rumors and foolishness.
Now, (edit because it was longer ago than thought) thirteen years ago I was in Milan (northern Italy) and this crazy old Italian chef had a restaurant on the outskirts of the city and I made it a point to come to his restaurant. Well, I found out when I got there that the old man had retired and the restaurant was closed by the time I could drive out to where it was. But lucky for me the son took me to their family home and let me have a sample cooking lesson with the retired chef to learn the secret (which isn't much of a secret, but definitely an unorthodox method for making pesto) to making his creamy pesto.
I took this lesson home with me and tried it with a mortar and pestle... yeah, not feelin' it but give me an A+ for trying to be authentic the first 10 times I made it. So anywho, I modernized the prep so it could be made faster and without having to do silly amounts of pesky measurements. Everyone has their own tastes, so adjust as needed and lets get down to business.
In Italy there are actually two types of pesto: Creamy and Oil based. Now creamy is for sure not the normal presentation for pesto and the first thing we think of is "damn, this needs expensive heavy whipping cream". Nope, I thought wrong just as many other people have I am sure. So lets get to work!
1. Half Cup of Pine Nuts (you can substitute these nuts with Walnuts and I have seen people use cashews, but I have not personally done it with Cashews myself).
2. One Stick of Salted Butter (European style preferred, but measure it out to a half cup).
3. Handful of Basil leaves (Now, pesto can be made with spinach, watercress, and other greenie meanies, but Basil is the standard).
4. Sea Salt (with or without iodine is fine) and fresh ground pepper.
5. 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced (doesn't need to be pressed)
6. Dried or fresh Oregano (season to taste, but a medium dash/sprinkle is sufficient)
7. a mild handful of parmesan cheese, grated (doesn't have to be fresh, can be from a bulk container or shredded package, is about a half cup).
8. Olive oil (you do this to your preference and to give the pesto the olive flavor it does need. Don't worry, it wont be super oily).
9. Fettuccine or Angel Hair pasta (half a standard box)
LET'S DO THIS BEAST!
1. Get a pot of water boiling and season it with a generous helping of sea salt and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the pasta and boil for about 8 to 10 minutes depending on the pasta type (for boiling the pasta check the box it came in for suggested cooking times)
2. On an dry frying pan take your nuts (tee-hee nuts) and place them on the pan and lightly roast them on medium heat. Toss your nuts (again tee-hee) so they get roasted lightly on both sides. It is about 1 1/2 minutes MAX on medium heat.
3. Take your nuts (oh man... always with these nuts) and place them in a standard blender.
4. You may now take your fresh Basil, roll it up like a fruit roll-up (or a joint for the adults in the room), and slice it into smaller pieces and add to blender.
5. Take your peeled garlic and slice it if you have not done it already and add to blender.
6. Pour olive oil into the blender (count to 1 or 2 and stop pouring from your bottle, Ill make a real life chef outta ya in no time).
7. Now take your stick o' butter and slice it into small squares (think just thick slices that you'd spread on toast) and add the butter to the blender.
8. Now go ahead and add your parmesan cheese and oregano to the blender.
9. Now begin by pulsing your blender on a high setting. Don't just let the blender run on automatic frappé, keep pulsing it bit by bit to break down the nuts (tee-hee) and let the contents begin to blend. You will have to add olive oil in little spurts but only add it if the mixture is too chunky or not blending. Do not go overboard with the olive oil and the reason an exact measurement doesn't always work is because the butter could be firm, the nuts could have shell that is preventing the blending from coming together right away, there are lots of reasons the pesto will not instantaneously turn into the sauce right away. Just be patient and pulse it till it begins to turn into a creamy sauce, moving things around with a fork or spoon when the blender IS NOT TURNED ON to get things down to the blades. Once it a lot closer to looking like a sauce, go ahead and set your blender to LIQUIFY or something really high and beefy. b^^
10. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I'd suggest tasting your pesto first before seasoning it so you know how much to add.
Now, you might think (Hey, its not gonna be hot damnit!) and it doesn't look like enough! Don't worry, TheBeef's gotcha covered.
11. Once the pasta has finished boiling go ahead and take a ladle (not a large one, just a standard ladle) and take one ladle worth of the water you cooked your pasta in and add it to the blender and mix it in using the pulse. After that, go ahead and drain your pasta and put it back into the pot or onto your plates. Pour the pesto sauce on the pasta and enjoy!
TIPS: Why do you put olive oil in the water with the pasta! Simple my friends. The olive oil doesn't just help flavor the pasta lightly, but it helps keep the pasta from sticking to itself and you don't have to turn the pasta and fool around with it as often. The perk is you can focus on other things in the kitchen and you really only have to turn the pasta once during a 8 to 10 minute cooking phase, like halfway through but sometimes I never touch it and it comes out perfect. Less maintenance so you can focus on more daunting kitchen tasks. The salt is also to flavor the pasta as well, a standard method.
Slicing the garlic, butter, and basil before putting it in the blender really helps make the blender not have to work as hard. You can actually damage some older blenders by throwing in huge chunks of ingredients so I suggest making your blender do the least amount of work possible. It will also allow the sauce to come together in the blender faster.
As a general rule of thumb with Italian cooking you want to use one medium clove of garlic per person for most recipes. Of course if you hate garlic or know someone who does, then you will alter the garlic amount to fit their needs. DON'T USE GARLIC POWDER!
As far as the olive oil goes, the goal is to use as little as you can while still making a creamy sauce that is not chunky. So that is why a measurement doesn't always work in the case of this recipe. Sometimes people use butter right out of the fridge, which is fine, but it doesn't mean you need to add MORE olive oil. The perk of this dish is that olive oil is expensive, so in place of the oil we use butter as the main base. But the dish still requires some olive oil because it works perfectly with the dish!
The toasting of the nuts (tee-hee) is always optional, but highly advised. It adds a bit more of an earthier flavor to the dish and helps it stick out from the rest of those boring pesto recipes.
Buy pine nuts and other nuts like it in bulk to save money. You can freeze them over and over and get a whole bag of nuts to last a year if you keep on freezing them. I do suggest using them though so you do not have to resort to it, or freeze half a bag of nuts to make one bag last forever. But as always, make sure you thaw your nuts (tee-hee) before cooking with them. b^^
Hopefully you like this recipe and perhaps the Milanese popularity of this dish will start to spread. It was one of my most popular specials and people have paid me a lot to make it for them. The best part is that it is such an easy dish to make and if you don't mind cleaning a blender, it is easy to clean up after as well. Buying pine nuts in bulk and getting a basil plant will make this dish a staple in your home in no time! Always serve it with garlic bread and a fine white wine! b^^
If you guys like this recipe let me know and perhaps TheBEEF will return with another Italian dish!