Today, we’re going back to the basics and making one of my favorite sauces, pesto. Pesto is an Italian condiment comprised of fresh bright basil, grated hard cheese, toasted nuts and quality olive oil; so simple but utterly delicious. I was recently reminded of how great pesto can be at my visit to Eataly in Los Angeles. The Italian marketplace has everything from Roman pizza to homemade pastas to wine to charcuterie. As a Italian food enthusiast, I was excited to say the least.
After snacking on some goodies, I decided to eat at the restaurant with the longest line, “La Pizza and La Pasta.” I couldn’t resist but order their homemade mozzarella with pesto and accompaniments. As soon as I took a bite of their fresh cheese, I was in heaven. What made it even better was their pesto. Fresh mozzarella on fresh toasted bread topped with pesto and marinated tomatoes, the perfect combination. I loved their pesto so much that I was determined to recreate it as soon as I got home. And recreate it I did! Though the measurements may not be exact, this is my copycat recipe of the pesto found in Eataly. Make sure to prepare a large batch because you will be spreading this on everything, trust me.
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 cups fresh basil
- 1/4 cup lightly toasted walnuts
- 1/4 cup lightly toasted almonds
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup grana padano, finely grated
- 1/4 cup parmesan, finely grated
- salt and pepper
- Place garlic with a pinch of sea salt in large mortar. Grind until garlic resembles a pasta.
- Add 1/2 cup basil leaves and grind until broken down. Add another 1/2 cup and grind until broken down. Repeat until all basil leaves have been ground.
- Add walnuts and almonds and grind with the basil and garlic mixture. Add oil and grind until mixture is combined.
- Add gran padano and parmesan and grind until combined. Season with salt and pepper.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Since we’re going to be making the ultimate pesto, we might as well go all out and use a mortar and pestle. Traditionally, pesto is prepared with a mortar and pestle but feel free to use a food processor or blender instead. Just be careful not to over mix when using an appliance since that will bruise the herbs and release too much oils from the nuts.
Since there aren’t many ingredients in this sauce, make sure to use quality ingredients. I usually opt for the cheaper parmesan but this time I decided to buy the more expensive choice. In reality, it was only about $2-3 more but the taste is absolutely more noticeable. Great parmesan should be nutty, salty, even a little fruity. Lower quality parmesan tends to be a little bitter, not a desirable flavor in cheese.
If you’re having a difficult time finding grana padano, you can substitute parmesan. Grana padano has a more subtle flavor than parmesan and is actually cheaper than the latter.
Make sure to taste your pesto and season accordingly. Once prepared, enjoy as soon as possible! Spread it on toasted baguette, mix it in your pasta or toss roasted vegetables with it. The possibilities with great pesto are endless.
Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles.