This week's recipe from 'Essentials of Italian Cooking' came at the perfect time. I was in Montisi with a garden FULL of fresh Italian basil, cooking in a Tuscan kitchen and my 'chore' was to make Pesto, by the Motar Method.
Marcella has a beautiful page in her cookbook on the true origins of pesto, and the art of creating pesto by using a mortar with a pestle. If you have ever had truly fresh, perfectly prepared pesto on fresh pasta... It will make your heart sing. This is not the pesto-boyRdee, or even what they make in the authentic Olive Gardens across the country. We are talking honest-to-goodness-hallelujah-chorus flavors.
Start with 2 generous cups of fresh basil, that have been rinsed in cold water and dried. Combine in a mortar with sea salt, pine nuts, and mashed garlic. Using the pestle, mash against the sides until a thick paste if formed. (stop here and just take a deep breath~ y'all will be transported to my Tuscan kitchen for a moment) Add grated cheese and continue until it is a smooth paste. Add olive oil in a very thin stream, beating with a wooden spoon. Finally, add a few tablespoons of softened butter. This pesto can be used so many ways. We enjoyed ours on thin slices of bread drizzled with olive oil. We were lucky enough to be a few short miles from Pienza~ known for its pecorino cheese, and I was able to find some 'fiore sardo'.