Pesto is a sprightly sauce to use on pizza and focaccia, and with many other dishes as well. This is Peter’s favorite version, but feel free to play with the recipe. To get you started, we’ve included several variations. Just one caveat: Don’t use packaged grated cheese. For optimum flavor and best results, the cheese should be freshly grated.
- Yield: 3 cups; enough for about 6 pizzas or focaccias
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup (8 oz / 227 g) extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
- 1 cup (4.75 oz / 135 g) pine nuts, lightly toasted
- ¾ cup (2.5 oz / 71 g) freshly grated Parmesan, Romano, Asiago, or Grana Padano cheese
- 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Heat the 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté for about 20 seconds, just to help tame the flavor. Immediately transfer the garlic and oil to a separate dish.
- Put the basil, 1 cup olive oil, pine nuts, Parmesan, and lemon juice in a food processor. Add the garlic and its cooking oil and process until smooth. The pesto should be thick but spreadable. If it’s too thick, add more olive oil; if it’s too thin, add more cheese.
- Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, the pesto will keep for about 1 week. If the top surface darkens, this is just oxidation simply stir the dark layer on top back into the bright green pesto underneath. If you freeze pesto, it will remain bright green until you thaw it, but then it will darken throughout (more oxidation). You can still use it, but it won’t be as vibrant looking. Still, dark pesto is better than no pesto at all, and you can brighten it up by stirring in a little more lemon juice.