This recipe was originally featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter on Thursday, July 29, 2004.


INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

2 or 3 cups (500 ml to 750 ml) fresh basil leaves
2 large cloves garlic
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil plus additional to taste
Black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano


1. Pick the basil - it's best to use it immediately after harvesting - and pick off and discard any stems and seed pods. If you've grown your own, it's best not to wash it, as rinsing the leaves in water seems likely to wash off some of the aromatic oils that make it so good. If you got yours at the store ... use your own judgement.

2. Mince the garlic, and cook it in 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a small pan over medium-high heat until the garlic is translucent. Add the pine nuts, and cook until the pine nuts and the garlic are turning light golden-brown. (If you're in a hurry, or a traditionalist, this step is not necessary - you can make the pesto with raw garlic and un-toasted pine nuts. But I like the way that sauteeing mellows the garlic, adds a toasty flavor and scents the oil.) Remove from heat and allow it to cool for a few moments.

3. Put the basil in the bowl of your food processor (using the steel blade). Add the oil, garlic and pine-nut mix, 1 teaspoon salt, and black pepper to taste. Process quickly into a rough paste; then continue processing as you pour in additional olive oil until you have a thick, fairly smooth paste. Stir in the grated Parmigiano, and it's ready to serve over pasta or in any dish that suits your fancy.

Leftover pesto keeps in the refrigerator for several days. I generally keep it in a small plastic tub with a tight lid. The top will turn dark greenish-brown, but don't worry; it's still edible, and the pesto underneath should remain an attractive bright basil-green.

MATCHING WINE: Maybe it's just a matter of mental association, but I find that simple pesto on pasta works fine with a crisp, fruity Italian red, a Chianti or Montepulciano for example. If you want a white, try it with a herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc.