While most of us tend to pile ketchup or mayonnaise on stuff we eat, I have a strong aversion to these somewhat artificial condiments. The term ‘condiment’ was originally coined to designate anything that imparts a particular flavor to enhance or complement a dish but I unfortunately find that it detracts from the authentic flavors so much so that I usually go without them most of the time. Pesto alla genovese, however, steers clear from this group as it retains its fresh, bright green colour as long as you take the trouble to make it from scratch all by yourself.
Not well known by the average Mauritian, this Italian preparation is traditionally made by grinding basil leaves, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and olive oil [ideally by hand in a stone mortar or on your faithful roche carri]. You can now find jars of the readymade sauce in large retail stores but they are only weak imitations of the real thing. It does take a bit of elbow grease to pound everything into a smooth paste, as per the recipe from David Lebovitz, before you can enjoy your homemade pesto in a grilled sandwich or spooned over fresh pasta but no doubt well worth the effort.
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3/4 teaspoon coarse kitchen salt
1 cup (20g) loosely-packed basil leaves
5 tablespoons (75ml) best-quality olive oil
2 ounces (60g) grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (30g) pine nuts, lightly toasted
- Smash the garlic and salt together in a mortar and pestle until smooth. Coarsely chop the basil leaves.
- Then add the chopped basil leaves to the mortar and pounding them into the garlic as you add them.
- Once it is well-mashed into a fairly smooth paste, pound in the olive oil, adding it a spoonful at a time.
- The olive oil should be well-incorporated. Lastly, pound in the Parmesan cheese, then the pine nuts.
- Continue mashing for a few minutes until pesto is as smooth as possible. Makes about 1 cup of pesto.
- Fresh pesto should be served within a day or two after it is made or it can be frozen for a few months.
Homemade Basil Pesto