From the italian word pestare, meaning to pound or to crush, pesto’s nomenclature is indicative of the fact that it was originally made by crushing its ingredients in a mortar with a pestle. You can
certainly make it the old-fashioned way—all that arm work might earn you an extra dollop on your pasta. Here, we make it in a food processor because it yields a faster and more consistent result. However you make it, pesto is a summer wonder—vibrant in color, creamy in texture, potent in flavor. A little goes a long way. But a lot goes further, so eat on up and invite friends and family to join you (Italians would approve). Traditional pesto is made with fresh basil, garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, pine nuts, and olive oil, and the traditional is dynamite. But it is also just a template. The act of grinding ingredients is what makes a pesto a pesto, and any herb can be crushed with any nut—parsley-walnut, arugula-macadamia, and mint-pistachio. Just hit up your herb garden and clip whatever you have in abundance, then experiment. Because there are so few ingredients, use the highest quality of each—it makes a difference. You can toss the finished product in pasta, of course, but also spread it on pizza or chunks of fresh baguette, give your vegetables a drizzle or a dip, or thin it out and toss a summer salad. And just so we are clear: it is perfectly fine to eat pesto with a spoon.
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