from Mary Lou Carlson as adapted by Carol Gerlitz (originally in Fine Cooking magazine, June/July 2001)
Yields about 1½ cups
- 3 cups packed basil leaves (about 6-7 ounces of leaves)
- ¼ cup ice water
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
- ½ cup + 2 tbsp. pine nuts
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ tsp. salt
- 3/8 tsp. black pepper
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Bring 2 quarts water seasoned with 1 tablespoon salt to a rolling boil. Prepare an ice bath by combining ice and water in a large bowl. (Be sure you freeze a lot of ice cubes ahead of time for this.)
Divide the basil into 2 or 3 parts, so that one part of basil will fit into a large metal strainer (about 5 or 6 inches in diameter). Put the basil (in strainer) into boiling water, pressing it gently under the water with a rubber spatula, and cook for 2 or 3 seconds. Remove the basil from the water and plunge it (still in the strainer) into the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Let cool in the ice bath for 1-2 minutes, until completely cooled. Loosen it up with your fingers to aid the cooling process.
Remove the basil from the ice bath and squeeze it lightly with your hands to remove most of the excess water. Set aside until all basil is prepared.
Chop the basil coarsely with a sharp knife and then put it into a food processor. Add the garlic, pine nuts, cheese, ½ tsp. salt, pepper, and ¼ cup ice water. Blend until the basil is coarsely pureed, scraping down the sides (and adding more water to facilitate blending only if needed).
Be patient; don’t add more water if it isn’t necessary.
With the food processor running, add the oil in a steady stream until the pesto looks creamy and emulsified. Cover and store in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for up to a few months. Serve over 12-16 ounces of cooked rotini or fusilli, or your favorite pasta. Or dream up some other good uses for the pesto and let the rest of us know! (I’ve used it as a topping for pizza instead of tomato sauce—tastes wonderful that way)
My handwritten notes also indicate that several times I’ve done about 1½ pounds basil in three batches—3 cups, 3 cups, and 4 cups at a time—which resulted a total of 5-6 cups pesto. I’ve also kept it frozen for much longer than a few months!