Basil pesto was born in Northern Italy, in the sea port region of Genoa. This traditional pesto sauce from the Cinque Terre region can be used to make a variety of dishes — from chicken pesto and sun dried tomato pesto to pesto salad and pesto pizza.
To make basil pesto, you’ll need some pine nuts. And yes — pine nuts are actually harvested from pine cones!
In Italy, the stone pine is preferred for its large seeds. Here in the U.S., pinyon pine nuts were a favorite food of Native Americans. Pine nuts are harvested under each scale of the pine cone. This takes a lot of time, so you’ll probably want to get some from your local market. This is what the pine nut looks like before it’s shelled. Actually to harvest the pine nuts, I drove to the grocery store and bought a pack. You can see why they are so expensive.
Basil PestoRecipe by Jason Hill – CookingSessions.com
- ½-1 cup pine nuts
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves rinsed
- 4 cloves garlic
- ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
- 1 ½ – 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh cracked pepper and more sea salt to taste
- Before beginning the pesto, toast 1/2 to 1 cup pine nuts on a hot pan over high heat. Don’t walk away from this, as they cook quickly. Shake pan continuously until they turn golden brown. Remove from heat.
- In a food processor, pulse basil, garlic and toasted pine nuts for about a minute, scraping down with a rubber spatula. Add the grated parmesan cheese and sea salt. Slowly blend in the olive oil, a little at a time. Season with fresh cracked pepper and additional salt if desired.
- Store in the refrigerator until ready to use, or make pesto pasta.
Make Your Pasta
- To make pesto pasta, mix 2 cups cooked penne pasta with 1/2 cup fresh pesto. Add fresh diced rotisserie chicken for a chicken pesto recipe. Top with additional grated parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts and fresh basil leaves if desired.