This Northern Italian sauce originates from Liguria, Italy, a city known for its basil crop and subsequently from this simple, yet powerfully flavorful sauce. While there is no doubt that this sauce is best prepared the old fashioned way, with a mortar and pestle, you can prepare this at home without one in under five minutes using a blender.
Pesto derives from the word pestare, which means to step on. Traditionally this sauce is made by crushing together the ingredients in a mortar, which not only breaks apart the basil and the pine nuts but releases the oils and combines them together. Slowly, other ingredients will be added. But the capacity of a mortar is small, which it means it takes time and patience to create a batch of this peppery green sauce. Since time is always a concern in preparing meals for a family, a high powered blender will give a similar result but with such little time and effort that you’ll be able to serve this meal any day of the week.
Fettucine with Pesto Sauce
- 2 cups fresh basil, washed in cold water and dried well
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
- 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 lb Fettucine pasta
- Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Salt generously.
- In a high powdered blender or food processor, add the basil, pine nuts, garlic cloves, cheese, and a pinch of salt and pepper. If the function is available to you, pulse the machine to break apart the ingredients and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. (If your blender/food processor does not have this option – add the ingredients all together, stopping to scrape down the sides.) Continue to blender the mixture until there are no large pieces left. The sauce should be thick, but looser than a paste. Drizzle in additional olive oil one tablespoon at a time to loosen the mixture, if necessary. Set aside.
- When the water is boiling, add the fettucine and cook until al dente, 2 minutes shy of the suggested cooking time on the box, for about 8-10 minutes. Reserve one cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta into a sieve.
- Return the pot to the stove and add the pesto sauce and reserved pasta water. Mix to combine. Return the pasta to the pot and reduce the flame to a medium-low setting. Cook the pasta with the sauce for an additional 3-4 minutes, tossing constantly to coat the pasta in the pesto and marry the flavors.
- Serve immediately and top with grated parmesan cheese, if desired.