TOTAL TIME: 25 minutes
MAKES: 2 cups, enough to dress 1 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta
Making pesto by hand in a mortar produces the most authentic and delicious results. If your mortar is too small to accommodate whole basil leaves, use a food processor to gently and minimally chop leaves before proceeding. Delicious tossed with pasta, pesto also makes an excellent topping for pizza. Try a little served along with grilled chicken or drizzled over slices of ripe summer tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 cups tightly packed basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, lightly smashed, peel removed
Coarse sea salt
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Place pine nuts in a medium skillet and heat over medium-low heat. Cook, occasionally shaking the pan back and forth over the heat, until nuts are toasted, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer nuts to a plate to cool completely.
Rinse basil and gently, but thoroughly, pat dry with paper towels. Place in a mortar with cooled pine nuts, garlic and pinch salt. Using the pestle with a rotary movement, grind ingredients against the wall of the mortar, until ground to a paste. Add both cheeses and grind into mixture to combine.
Transfer mixture to a large bowl. In a slow and steady stream, add oil, whisking constantly.
Pesto is best used the same day but keeps, its surface covered with a thin layer of olive oil and tightly covered, chilled, for 3 days.
To dress pasta, dilute pesto with a tablespoon or two of pasta cooking water, toss with hot pasta (just cooked and drained), add a tablespoon or two of butter and toss again. Serve at once.