Growing up in South Korea, basil was not an ingredient that I was ever familiar with. I ate dishes with basil at Italian restaurants, but I had never seen the fresh basil until I went to study in London. First thing about fresh basil that hit me before anything else was its fragrance. The unique and intoxicating aroma of basil blew my mind instantly. Like Marcella Hazan wrote in her book Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, “The less basil cooks, the better it is, and that its fragrance is never more seductive than when it is raw.” …What a beautiful thing to say.
Soon after I discovered the beauty of fresh basil, I started to put it in my salad and pasta I made at home. However it took me quite a while till I tried making my own pesto. I just thought it was really difficult thing to do, mainly because its beautiful and complex flavor made me think that it should be done professionally. Eventually I learned that I was very wrong, thanks to a few Italian friends, and after my first time making at home a few years ago I never went back to buying pesto ever again. It is so easy, simple, and the flavor is ever so fresh, and definitely better than the store-bought one, I just don’t see the point of buying it any more. I also love how I can control the ratio of ingredients and play with different combinations myself.
The version I am sharing today is my favorite, especially when it starts getting hot in Hong Kong. A little bit of mint adds even more freshness to the pesto and the tanginess of pecorino romano makes it perfect for summer. This pesto is great for pasta obviously, but it is also great as a dip, which I have been serving every year at my house party. For today’s post, I used it to make bruschetta with cherry tomatoes, (combination of tomato and basil in my opinion is Italy’s gift to the world). I hope you’ll give it a go. Like I always say to my friends, making pesto is much easier than you think, and once you try you will never go back to buying a jar of pesto ever again.
- 80g/2.8oz. basil, leaves and stems
- 17g/0.6oz . mint, leaves and stems
- 70g/2.5oz. pecorino romano
- 50g/1.8oz. pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves, 3 if you like garlicky pesto like me 😉
- 50ml/1/5 cup. extra virgin olive oil
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
Wash and pat dry basil and mint. Roughly chop and add into a food processor.
Add in pecorino romano and pine nuts.
Peel and crush garlic. Remove the little green sprout inside if there’s any. The sprout is bitter and tends to give me a heartburn when the garlic is used raw, so I always make sure to remove it.
Add extra virgin olive oil and juice of half a lemon.
Add ground black pepper. You won’t need any salt thanks to the salty cheese.
Blitz until all the ingredients are blended into a desirable texture.