Thanis Lim

All Rounder Chef and Food Journalist

The art of pesto

My friend had a great basil sandwich at Fleur De Lyss (Is that the right spelling?) at Kiulap and he loved it. Part of the basil sandwich was of course a basil pesto, a very useful yet not well known ingredient in Brunei. I decided to do a piece about making pesto. After researching many websites and blogs (the best resource for ideas and food research), this is what I've got. Long post but I hope this will widen your cooking ideas and prove useful. Bear in mind that it's not my recipe nor do I take the pictures, they are there to give a good idea and to make reading this article pleasant.

The traditional pesto, originating in Genoa, Italy, is composed of basil, pine nuts, garlic, cheese and olive oil pounded into a paste. The word pesto means “pestle” so it can apply to any sort of ingredients transformed into a paste through using a mortar and pestle or even a food processor. Since it's hard to find pine nuts in Brunei, we substitute almonds, walnuts or cashews (Toast them if possible). I like cashews so I decided to use them.

If you want to freeze the pesto you make, omit the cheese (it doesn't freeze well). Line an ice cube tray with plastic wrap, and fill each pocket with the pesto. Freeze and then remove from the ice tray and store in a freezer bag. When you want to use, defrost and add in grated Parmesan or Romano.
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (Use the best ones you can find)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (traditional way) or you can use cashew nuts or walnuts (alternatives)
  • 3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Below is the traditional step by step way of making pesto. You will get best results if you don't use a food processor. The technique here is: chop a bit, add some ingredients, chop some more. I think part of the reason she does it this way (instead of chopping everything all at once) is because some things get chopped into oblivion, while some not as much - it encourages spectrum of cut sizes throughout the pesto contributing to the overall texture. Using a mortar and pestle is also alright.

1. Start chopping the garlic along with about 1/3 of the basil leaves.

2. Once this is loosely chopped add more basil, chop some more, add the rest of the basil, chop some more. Scrape and chop, gather and chop.

3. At this point the basil and garlic should be a very fine mince. Add about half the nuts, chop.
Add the rest of the nuts, chop.

4. Add half of the Parmesan, chop.
Add the rest of the Parmesan, and chop.

5. You then have a fine texture of the ingredients. Transfer to a bowl and then mix in the extra virgin olive oil .

6. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Alternatively, instead of chopping, you can use a pestle and mortar. Just add in a bit of salt along with the basil leaves to make it easier to crush them.

Another easy way which many pesto purists don't like but this makes it a lot easier is to add in the ingredients slowly in a food processor, then adding the olive oil slowly.

Serving suggestions:

Whether on its own or mixed with other ingredients like cream cheese or bread crumbs, pesto makes an excellent stuffing ingredient. You can even include it inside your burger mince meat to make great tasting burgers.

You can use it as a sauce for meats and seafood. Just like the picture below where it uses pesto as a sauce for fish

Pasta is a natural partner for pesto. As you toss hot cooked pasta with this flavorful sauce, the heat brings out the fabulous flavors of the basil, garlic, and cheese. For pasta, toss a few tablespoons of pesto with hot pasta and a bit of the cooking water until well coated. Toss in a few raw or blanched vegetables like tomatoes, broccoli or artichokes if desired. This is good served hot or at room temperature.

You can also toss it with tasty gnocchi recipe from this blog.

To make a terrific appetizer, lightly toast slices of French bread, spread on a thin layer of pesto and pass under a grill until it is hot and bubbly.

Pesto is also good as a spread in any of your creative sandwiches

Stir a teaspoon of pesto into a bowl of piping hot soup just before serving as a colorful and tasty garnish. Allow a bit of pesto to melt over the top of broiled fish or steamed veggies.

You might also spread a layer of pesto over your pork chops just before you finish broiling them.

To make your favorite bread recipe. Roll it out like pizza dough, spread on pesto and roll it up as if you were making cinnamon rolls.

Or use it as a pizza topping.



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  3. O man, maybe I shudnt have read this post while fasting... *pengsan*

  4. Anonymous7:23 PM

    It was indeed an inspirational post! I will surely make my own pesto from now on!

  5. Hi thanis,great post on a big fan of pesto with supasave the only place we can find fresh basil

  6. Effa - You can definitely buy them in Hua Ho - thai basil _ i usually get mine from there