Dianna B. has waited patiently for a pesto recipe in which to use her bolting basil. Here is my sister-in-law’s recipe, as promised. Elly’s husband was native French, one of my favorite languages as well, so I suppose neither of us ever thought twice about the French-i-fied version of “alla.” Whatever, it became our family’s gold standard against which all others were measured, and always found wanting. The daughter, especially, has a pesto palate like no other. When out, she’ll order it any way she can get it, then tip her head in careful consideration as she sums it up, “It was good, but not as good as Aunt Elly’s.” Even when I made it at home, it was never mine; a question as to what was for dinner was answered, “Aunt Elly’s Pesto.”
I copied it into my recipe book exactly as Elly wrote it down for me. When growing up in (then) rural Connecticut, the family had had an Italian housekeeper (Giovanna, I believe), whose husband helped their father, an artist, in his studio. I recall my husband talking about her polenta, which she would cut with a length of picture-hanging wire, and I suspect she was also the root of Elly’s pesto recipe.
Oil assumes olive oil. She’d use walnuts in a pinch, but pine nuts were preferred. Food processors weren’t yet a glimmer in anyone’s eye, so she (and I for several years) made it in a blender, which worked just fine. When she prepared it to freeze – and Elly, the prototypical frugal New Englander with a garden the size of New Jersey, froze anything she could get her hands on – she omitted the Parmesan and instead added it to the steaming hot pasta as she tossed it with her pesto.
An addendum, in case you haven’t read through all the comments below: that diligent task-master, Diana B., asked yet another of her questions which light up the blind spots of what I try to fashion as complete recipes carefully explained. Do I measure the basil before or after chopping it? I responded that I simply stuff (sort or more like pack them in, actually) whole leaves of both basil and parsley into a dry measuring cup. Where pesto is concerned, close enough is close enough.