“Mom. Blog This. Right Now.” (Leandro Makes His First Pesto and Wants You To Know How Great It Was)

11 Aug

It is high season for basil, which means high season for pesto. I forgot to pick up basil from the farm this week, but one of the neighbors’ friends, in gratitude for Sangría Night, sent some over from the overabundance in her own garden.

From Lindsay’s Garden

Between that and my little plants scattered around the yard, I had enough for a quickie pesto for Leandro’s couscous.

From our garden – not the greatest shot, but the other ones showed all the perforations from unknown creatures feasting merrily on my herbs!

And then, BONUS! I had Leandro making his own dinner! He loves the smell of basil, but what he truly couldn’t resist was a go with the pestle. Nothing like offering a five-year-old a club and saying “Have at it, kid. Call me when you’ve beaten this stuff to a pulp.”

The Little Chef at work

He was tremendously excited at every turn, making me smell all the different aromas as we added ingredients to the mortar. We mixed it into couscous for lunch with the grands and wasn’t he so proud to have made The Best Pesto Ever? We were proud too and it really was delicious. I also used some of it to spread on roasted eggplant, peppers and zucchini. What a terrific lunch! And a wonderful kitchen experience!

Note the unorthodox use of walnuts (Poor Marcella Hazan; I use her The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking all the time, but never quite stick to the classical line). I can’t afford to keep pine nuts around so walnuts were a worthy and handy substitute. (Mind you, with the price of walnuts rising — around $18 now for a 3-lb bag at Costco these days, up from $15 not too many months ago — who knows how long I’ll be able to afford those!). Also, this recipe can certainly be increased; I only had a cup of basil.


With Couscous

Hand-Ground Pesto (Mortar and Pestle needed)

1 Cup basil leaves, tightly packed (washed in cold water and patted dry)

1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled

2 Tbs walnuts

 Coarse sea salt (pinch by pinch, to taste)

¼ Cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano (additional Tbs romano cheese optional)

¼ Cup extra virgin olive oil

In a mortar and pestle (marble mortar with wooden pestle is what Marcella Hazan recommends; I use all marble) grind basil leaves, garlic, walnuts, and sea salt into a paste. Add cheese and use pestle to mix well. Add the oil in a thin stream, mixing well with a wooden spoon.

If using pasta, this amount will suffice for about a pound, Reserve some of the pasta cooking water to thin the pesto as you turn it into the pasta. If using couscous, start with two Cups dry (Israeli-style couscous – the big kind – preferred)

On stacked grilled veggies


21 Responses to ““Mom. Blog This. Right Now.” (Leandro Makes His First Pesto and Wants You To Know How Great It Was)”

  1. Shirley Surrett May 8, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

    With all the fresh herbs I’m growing, I can’t wait to try your pesto ideas! Keep the great ideas coming 🙂

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy May 9, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

      Sending Ashley down with a cooler…has she told you about Vice Pops, yet? That herb garden could be put to good use….(I want pictures!)

      • Shirley Surrett May 10, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

        Heard about the cooler coming to Maryland……she will be bringing you some amazing fresh seafood. We’ll see what I can concoct from the herb garden while she’s here:)

  2. Tammy August 14, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

    Leandro rocks! I have three sons and I love to have them in the kitchen.

  3. John Magisano August 13, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

    Love it! I like to mix pinoli’s with walnuts sometimes when making this. I made some yesterday, and was thinking about how to moderate the taste so it doesn’t taste like rubber or metal the way it can when mixing the basil and olive oil, so I lightened up a bit, adding some lemon juice. The big innovation was that I added some leftover corn from two cobs I had from the night before, about a half cup to the two cups of basil I was using. It really worked! Maybe that’s not even pesto but it tasted great! I also toasted the pinoli’s and added just a touch of toasted sesame oil instead of all evoo. It’s yummy let me tell you!

  4. Ashley August 12, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    That looks amazing! Tell Leandro he is welcome to make me some the next time I come over:)

  5. Conor Bofin August 12, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    That boy will go far. Even if he stops getting involved in the kitchen for some years, this stuff sticks. I know. I am living proof.
    Lovely post.

  6. Karen August 12, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    A chef in the making.

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy August 12, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

      One can only hope…except for those late hours….then again, probably a more effective use of late hours than I made in my misspent youth!

  7. inherchucks August 11, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    Way to go Leandro! This looks delicious 🙂

  8. ceciliag August 11, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    fantastic, leandro is a star, do tell him I said fantastic job! He is going to make this often! c

  9. Mad Dog August 11, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    Excellent! I used half a plant yesterday and the smell was so good, I can easily see why Leandro likes it and his could be the best pesto ever 😉
    I like the use of walnuts – surely they are cheaper than pine nuts…

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy August 11, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

      Yes on the walnuts! The flavor is different from a traditional pinoli pesto, but I like it. What did you make with your basil?


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