Basil Parmesan Pesto
I cook because I love cooking. I love exploring new dishes. I love spending hours trying to find out about a dish which is unknown to me or even a known one not belonging to my culture.
I remember the first time I had made Basil pesto. Till 2 years ago you would not find pine nuts in Kolkata's market and so when I found it in Bombay I was overjoyed. I bought some pine nuts shelled them and made my basil pesto and I was in love with it. My husband hated the taste of basil but then I hardly cared because I was in love with it and his aunt who had visited us at the time liked it quite well. The freshness of basil with the cheesiness and the flavour of extra virgin olive oil with pine nuts is delicious.
Thanks to Google translator I am able to read blogs written in different languages and that is how I had come to know that Carbonara Sauce in fact does not use bacon but uses Guanciale (Pig cheek) and going by this video over youtube a chef from Italy explains how bacon and Guanciale are very different.
And then a few months back I bought 'La Cucina' by the Italian Academy of Cuisine. It beautifully categorizes dishes as per their region and what I did notice was the frequent use of a cheese called Pecorino Romano. This was last year and I was overjoyed to find it online and I loved its sharp taste and felt relieved about having a source for this widely used cheese in Italian cuisine.
Anyway soon enough I found it to be discontinued due to lack of demand. I felt really bad because so many dishes use the particular cheese. Anyway I was checking my favourite site for Italian dishes, 'Giallozafferano' and their pesto alla Genovese used Pecorino cheese. I checked out a few other sites and found the use of this cheese in all the recipes. This is where I thank Google translator. While its true that the translation can at times be terrible you basically understand the sentences and that is all that matters to me. Anyway I was a bit sad since I had bought a big bunch of Basil leaves and then I decided to ask Manuela about this use of cheese in the particular pesto . She writes from ManusKitchen and is from Italy. Do check out her site for some fantastic recipes.
Anyway she confirmed my suspicion about Pecorino being an essential ingredient for Pesto alla genovese and told me Parmesan is the closest substitute but would be milder in taste.
Anyway I did still proceed to make a pesto and the result was fantastic in taste.
I adapted 'Giallozafferano''s recipe and am loving this.
I followed the recipe as closely as possible wiping the basil leaves with a wet cloth instead of washing them as mentioned and using my mortar and pestle and so in the end other than the absence of pecorino cheese this Basil Parmesan pesto is something that shall have a recurring presence in my kitchen. Here is hoping I get to source some Pecorino real soon.
Basil Parmesan Pesto
25gm basil fresh leaves
1 large garlic clove (In India the garlic cloves are much more small than its European counterpart and I needed 4 small ones)
50ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
10gm Pine Nuts
Salt as needed
50gm Parmesan cheese (In case you get pecorino replace 50gm Parmesan with 40gm Pecorino and 15gm Parmesan)
75 dried gm pasta per serving
Start by pounding the garlic with salt and when it reaches a creamy state add the leaves bit by bit pounding them till they become smooth and then add the pine nuts and then slowly add the cheese after grating it. Once it reaches a creamy consistency add the Extra Virgin Olive Oil bit by bit and enjoy it over pasta cooked al dente.