Pesto Pestle

Continuing with the series on sauces, I’m making pesto today. And I will forgoing the food processor in favour of elbow grease. I’m going to crush everything using a mortar and pestle. In fact, this was the traditional way. The word is pesto is derived from pestle.

According to James Peterson in his book “Sauces”, the problem with the food processor it can chop too fine creating a purée. You want enough coarse texture to the pesto so it evenly distributes through the pasta.

I decided on pesto after my weekly trip to the Evergreen Brickworks farmers market . The garlic scrape was in season with lots of stalls offering it. Scrape is the stem that grows above ground, out of the bulb, and flowers. It is picked before the flower blooms so the flavour is at its most intense


It does have a garlic taste. The farmer also had big bunches of Basil so the pesto plan was born.


Instead of using garlic, I use the scrape. I still get the garlic taste but the crushed stem will give the pesto and blast of green vibrancy. I finely slice the scrape so it will be easier to pulp. Next, toast the pine nuts. I’m going to do a small test batch of pesto.


The basil needs to be washed and thoroughly dried. You can lose flavour if the leaves are wet. This sauce can also be used with grilled meats, fish and vegetables. Basil, scrape, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts and salt are ready to go. Make sure you have removed the stems from the Basil leaves. The fibre of the stem makes it difficult to mash.


First crush the scrape, pine nuts and salt before adding basil and oil.


Begin to pound in the Basil. The aroma at this point is divine. One of the main differences with using the mortar and pestle is you get to smell every minute of the mulching.


Once there is a coarse paste, begin to add the extra virgin olive oil and continue to mash and enjoy an even more intense aroma.


Now, once you have the thick consistency, you can add the parmigiano cheese. However I’m going to make this vegan and use a substitute Parmesan. Here is the recipe from Chef Sara Harrell at George Brown. You can use the mortar and pestle to finely ground the nutritional yeast. If you make a large batch of this, it can be frozen or stored in the fridge




Begin to add and blend in the “parmesean”


I’ve got a whole wheat organic pasta that I will use with this. The dark rich green of the pesto will blend well with the brown of the pasta. Remember to have an intense taste to the pesto. As it is tossed into the pasta the intensity will be diluted.



Now, our focus group has been waiting patiently in the other room. They could smell the pesto scent wafting in and out of the kitchen. I call them in for a taste test.


Eve (front), Pickles (left), Sally (right) and Raisin (back) were hoping to lick the mortar bowl but that’s not in the cards. However, they each get a piece of pasta with a little pesto sauce.


It’s a hit.



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