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.

Buon apetito!

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.


About thesolitarycook

I'm a chef, a cook, a teacher, a reader, a writer, a bike-rider, a dog- and cat-woman
This entry was posted in Meatless Monday, Pantry Dinners, Pastas, RECIPES, STORIES, Vegetarian and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to PESTO (ALLA) GENOVESE

  1. Love pesto! Have been making a ton of it lately (using walnuts for a change) and have been eating / freezing a lot. Thanks for sharing the family recipe.

  2. Diana B says:

    Thanks for digging this out and sharing it with us! I can’t wait to make it. May I ask if you measure the quantity of basil before or after you chop it?

    • There you are with another of your wonderful questions that clarify things so well. I measure both the basil and parsley whole by just stuffing them into a dry measuring cup. Don’t be too attached to precision, in other words.

      • Diana B says:

        One of the things about the internet that’s wonderful and distressing, all at the same time, is that there are a lot of terrific recipes out there and not all of them follow the conventions of recipe writing that cookbooks accustomed us to. As a result, I’ve become more sensitive to things like this because sometimes (although, as you say, not so much in this case) it can make a real difference. OK, I’m off to pick basil — thank you so much again!

  3. Diana B says:

    Mysterioso…my feed reader just showed me part of a post from you about Grilled Bean Salad and a discourse on kale, but it seems to have been spirited away by the cyber-gremlins! I do hope they return it, unharmed, as I can’t wait to hear you hold forth on The Persistence of Kale.

    • LOL! I knew someone would notice, and what a surprise it was you! I must have hit Publish rather than Save late last night, and when I noticed, I quickly grabbed it back because it is unfinished. It will go up later today. Here’s a preview: I’m not a member of the Better Living Through Kale Society.

      • Diana B says:

        I’m deeply suspicious of a leafy green that has to be massaged in order to be palatable; if I can’t get a massage for cooking, why should my meal? Of course, I’m also still waiting for someone to feed me the free-range Canadian duck and organic pears that go into my spoiled dog’s food, too. Not much hope there, either, I’m thinking…

  4. Cynthia,
    WOW !! Yum, yum Yum !! Not gonna lie…I also fell in love with the hand writing in the book and awesome photography. Beautiful photos. Made me want to dive right in there, hold that gorgeous silver, and gobble up the whole plate of yumminess.
    Lynne xx

  5. Bevi says:

    My husband also uses parsley in his pesto recipe, and almost always walnuts. We made a batch this week and will make more to stock up for the winter. Parsley does add a certain earthy and grounded taste that we love. And yes, close enough is close enough!

  6. Diana B says:

    I took a cube of this pesto out of the freezer, thawed it and tossed it with some pasta for dinner – delicious! It made me realize that I had never come back here to thank you for this recipe, so I’m remedying that failing, I hope not too belatedly. It’s really quite wonderful!

    You haven’t posted on this blog since September. I hope all is well with you and that you aren’t giving up on the blog – I’ve learned so much here, even though I’m a bit late to the party. Your posts on Food52 are always instructive, but I like the longer format here and the fact that you’re writing about what you want to, rather than responding to people’s queries.

    Happy new year, in any case!

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