Grandma doesn't measure anything.
“How much garlic do we need?”
“Well honey, we will use what we have”
“Ok, how much basil do you think this is. Like, four cups?”- I asked as I sat cutting around all of the little holes in the 'basilico' caused by bugs in her garden.
“I don’t know, it doesn’t make that much, you know, we use what we have”
And so we did. Garlic cloves-25? (many, many of these were little) Basil-4 cups? Pine nuts-1 cup? Parsley- 1 cup? And so on…
Her expert instincts aside, we think this comes from a lifetime of always using every last bit of what was available to her. Growing up 80 years ago in one of the poorest towns in Southern Italy, that wasn't much. But the beauty of never having a lot is that you learn to appreciate everything. Every fresh vegetable, every piece of fresh bread, every last scrap. We've never even seen her throw away a piece of crust (she could repurpose it 14 times).
The best thing about something like pesto is that you don't need a recipe; you don't need exact measurements because no matter what kind of cook you are, you can trust your tastebuds on this one. We love her pesto specifically because of how course it is-- often times pesto is so grainy, it's pulsed to the point where you feel like your chewing on your sauce, and is that really what you want your noodles bathing in? Not us.
With her version, the herbs stay intact. You can taste each of the few but strong ingredients, and with the addition of the pasta water, it creates this sort of fresh, light, perfect summer pasta sauce.
| Amanda & Kate
Yield - enough for 1 lb. pasta, serves 4
1 1/2 cups basil
1/2 cup parsley
1/4 cup pine nuts
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2 - 3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly shredded parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano (we used a blend)
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
In a large food processor, first pulse garlic and pine nuts until coursely ground. Add herbs and pulse. Do not keep processor on consistently; you want to make sure that everything remains course, rather than finely chopped. Stream in olive oil and pulse until it reaches desired consistency. Add cheese and pulse several more times. Season with salt & pepper.
If using with pasta, bring large pot of water to boil, add Kosher salt, and then pasta. When pasta is nearly al dente, remove 1 cup pasta water. Mix hot pasta water with pesto, add additional cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Drain pasta, toss with pesto mixture and serve.
Any leftover pesto can be saved and frozen in cups (above).