Pesto alla Genovese | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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Milk Street Recipe
Milk Street Bowtie Pesto alla Genovese

Pesto alla Genovese

30 minutes

Pesto alla Genovese

Free

We learned to make pesto alla Genovese in its birthplace—Genoa, Italy. It traditionally is made in a mortar and pestle of nothing more than basil, pine nuts, cheese, garlic, salt and olive oil, emphasis on the basil. We use a food processor for convenience but follow the tradition of processing ingredients separately to ensure we preserve the appropriate texture of each. Good quality cheese is essential for a rich, full-flavored pesto. Seek out true Italian Parmesan cheese, as well as pecorino Sardo, a sheep’s milk cheese from Sardinia. If you can’t find pecorino Sardo, don’t use pecorino Romano, which is too strong. The best substitute is Manchego, a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese. To store pesto, press a piece of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate for up to three days.

1

cup

Tip

Don't toast the pine nuts. In Italy, the pine nuts for pesto are used raw. Don't be tempted to add all the ingredients at once to the food processor. Adding them in stages ensures the pesto has the correct consistency and texture, and that it won't end up thin and watery, the result of overprocessing.

30 minutes

1 3/4 ounces Parmesan cheese (without rind), chopped into rough 1-inch pieces
1 ounce pecorino Sardo cheese (without rind), chopped into rough 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
Kosher salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 ounces (about 5 cups lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
Ingredients
  • ounces Parmesan cheese (without rind), chopped into rough 1-inch pieces

  • 1

    ounce pecorino Sardo cheese (without rind), chopped into rough 1-inch pieces

  • ¼

    cup pine nuts

  • 2

    medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

  • Kosher salt

  • ounces (about 5 cups lightly packed) fresh basil leaves

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Pesto alla Genovese

Get Ready to Cook

1

cup

30 minutes

Tip

Don't toast the pine nuts. In Italy, the pine nuts for pesto are used raw. Don't be tempted to add all the ingredients at once to the food processor. Adding them in stages ensures the pesto has the correct consistency and texture, and that it won't end up thin and watery, the result of overprocessing.

Ingredients
  • ounces Parmesan cheese (without rind), chopped into rough 1-inch pieces

  • 1

    ounce pecorino Sardo cheese (without rind), chopped into rough 1-inch pieces

  • ¼

    cup pine nuts

  • 2

    medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

  • Kosher salt

  • ounces (about 5 cups lightly packed) fresh basil leaves

Step 1 of 3

Process the cheese

ounces Parmesan cheese (without rind), chopped into rough 1-inch pieces
1
ounce pecorino Sardo cheese (without rind), chopped into rough 1-inch pieces

In a food processor, process both cheeses until broken into rough marble-sized pieces, about 10 seconds, then pulse until they have the texture of coarse sand, 5 to 10 pulses, scraping the bowl as needed. Transfer to a small bowl.

Step 2 of 3

Process the pine nuts and garlic

¼
cup pine nuts
2
medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
¾
teaspoon kosher salt
cup extra-virgin olive oil

In the food processor, combine the pine nuts, garlic and ¾ teaspoon salt. Process until a smooth, peanut butter–like paste forms, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the cheeses and about ½ of the oil and process until mostly smooth, 10 to 20 seconds, scraping the bowl as needed; the mixture should hold together when pressed against the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Step 3 of 3

Add the basil

ounces (about 5 cups lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
cup extra-virgin olive oil

Using a chef's knife, roughly chop the basil, then add to the food processor. Pulse about 10 times, scraping the bowl several times, until the basil is finely chopped and well combined with the cheese mixture. Add the remaining oil and pulse just until incorporated, about 2 pulses. The pesto should be thick, creamy and spreadable.

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