Letâ€™s cook something Italian, shall we? Pesto is one of those dishes that you see everywhereâ€¦and more often than not it is executed poorly. Too bad that such a simple sauce for pasta can get so incredibly mangled. In the Philippines, the single biggest deterrent to a decent pesto is the underlying quality of fresh basil leaves. Unless you grow your own, and preferably in a slightly cooler environment, the commercially purchased leaves one buys seem to be too big, too old, too bruised or too munched on by bugs to make a decent pesto. One of my pet peeves is that the pesto tastes more like a â€œfreshly hewn grass pastaâ€ than a basil pasta. A few weeks ago, I saw some spectacular basil from my favorite source Zackyâ€™s, which had a fresh delivery at Rustanâ€™s Supermarket in Rockwell. I bought several containers of very fresh, unbruised, lighter green basil leaves and whipped out some of the ingredients I had hand-carried back from Italy to make my own pesto sauce.
To make, grate some good parmigiano reggiano cheese and some good pecorino romano (a hard sheepâ€™s milk cheese). Toast some pine nuts and slice some mild fresh garlic (local garlic can be harsh, be judicious with its use) and take out the best extra virgin olive oil you have hiding in your pantry. Put your pot of water on high heat and just as it is reaching the boiling point, add say a tablespoon or so of salt to the water and a minute or two later add the dry pasta, I prefer linguine (flatter than spaghetti) with this sauce. While the pasta is cooking, blitz the cheese, basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic and some olive oil in a food processor (I suppose you could use a large mortar and pestle if you want to do this the traditional way), add more oil slowly until you achieve the desired consistency. It shouldnâ€™t be too thick nor too thin. Taste it and add salt and lots of cracked black pepper. The cheeses are salty and you may not need more salt. Once the pasta is drained (save some of the cooking water), toss the pasta with the pesto, add some cooking water if it appears too dry and serve with more grated parmiggiano and pecorino on the side. Traditionally this is made with parmigiano but I like using the two cheeses as it adds complexity and tasteâ€¦ I learned this from my wifeâ€™s cousin who lives in Rome!