In last week’s Soup to Nuts column, I mentioned a pesto recipe that I got from a former colleague, Gina Brisgone, and noted that it’s the best pesto I’ve ever had. As I might have predicted, several readers (and friends) asked me for the recipe. I contacted Gina and got her permission to share it here.
You’ll notice she suggests adding a few red pepper flakes to the pesto just before serving. I think this is one of the things (along with the butter and Pecorino Romano) that sets this pesto apart. It gives whatever dish you’re making a little extra bite.
2 cups basil leaves (pack firm but not tight into measuring cup)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano
3 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
Put olive oil in a blender and throw in the garlic and blend. Then start putting the leaves into the blender a little at a time, so they chop evenly and you don’t clog the blender. Add the pine nuts and teaspoon of salt while it’s still blending at high speed.
When the ingredients are evenly blended, put the mixture into a large bowl and beat in the two grated cheeses by hand with a spoon or spatula. Then blend in the butter. Voila, you’ve got pesto! Store in containers and refrigerate. It freezes well.
Here’s Gina’s suggestion for how to use it: Cook pasta al dente. Put the cooked pasta in a bowl, add a pat of butter and blend. Take your pesto and put it in a saute pan (how much or how little depends upon how heavy you like it and how many people you’re serving).
Heat the pesto in the pan on low heat and add a couple tablespoons of hot water (take it from the pasta water). Add a bit of red pepper flakes and blend. Once it’s heated, pour it over your hot pasta, blend and serve. You might want more cheese sprinkled on top. I sometimes even add a spritz of fresh lemon to add to the flavor.