The word ‘pesto’ comes from the Italian word ‘pestare’ which means to pound or crush, so if you want to do it right, pesto should be made using a pestle and mortar to grind the ingredients into a nice paste. However, if you’re rushed for time, a food processor works very well and that’s what I’ve used in this recipe.
I used to grate the parmesan cheese by hand until I watched Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, easily blitz hers to smithereens using a food processor and so now I just cut the parmesan into chunks and throw it into the food processor before adding the other ingredients.
The amount of garlic you use is really a matter of taste. Almost all recipes I’ve read specify 2 cloves of garlic, but I find that too much since it masks the other flavors and keeps me awake at night suffering from too-much-residual-raw-garlic-flavor-in-my-mouth syndrome. I find that using 1 really nice plump garlic clove works best for my tastebuds, but feel free to increase it to 2 if you love your raw garlic.
[TIP: Making pesto is a good way to involve kids in the kitchen. My little one spends ages carefully plucking the basil leaves off the plant while I sort out the rest of the ingredients: parmesan, garlic, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, and salt.]
TOMATO AND MOZZARELLA SALAD WITH PESTO
3-4 large tomatoes
1-2 balls of mozzarella cheese (approximately 8oz/200g total weight)
Dressing Ingredients (makes approximately 1 cup):
2oz/50g basil leaves (that’s usually about 2 bunches of basil from my supermarket), removed from the stalks
1oz/25g pine nuts
3oz/75g parmesan cheese, cut into large chunks (you can also grate it finely by hand if you prefer)
1 plump garlic clove (or 2 if you prefer a stronger garlic flavor), cut into 3 pieces
6-7 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
- Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella thinly and arrange them on a plate in alternating slices. Refrigerate.
- Make the pesto by first putting the parmesan chunks into the food processor and pulsing until finely grated (you can also grate the parmesan cheese by hand, in which case you would simply add it along with the ingredients in the next step.)
- Add the pine nuts and garlic clove(s) to the parmesan cheese in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
- Add the basil leaves, olive oil and salt to the rest of the ingredients in the food processor, and pulse until chunky and not too smooth. Add more olive oil if you feel the pesto needs to be thinner.
- Drizzle over the salad and serve.
- Refrigerate leftover pesto for upto 3 days. (TIP: You may need to thin it out with some olive oil after it has been in the refrigerator.)