Today, we're going back to the basics and making one of my favorite sauces, pesto. Pesto is an Italian condiment made from fresh basil, grated hard cheese, toasted nuts, and quality olive oil; so simple but utterly delicious. During my recent visit to Eataly in Los Angeles, I was reminded of how great pesto can be. The Italian marketplace has everything from Roman pizza to homemade pasta to wine to charcuterie. As an Italian food enthusiast, I was excited, to say the least.
After snacking on some goodies, I decided to eat at the restaurant with the longest line, "La Pizza and La Pasta." I couldn't resist but order their homemade mozzarella with pesto and accompaniments. As soon as I took a bite of their fresh cheese with pesto, I was in heaven. In fact, I loved their pesto so much that I was determined to recreate it as soon as I got home. And recreate it I did! Make sure to prepare a large batch because you will be spreading this on everything, trust me.
The Ultimate Walnut Almond Basil Pesto
- 1 clove garlic
- 3 cups fresh basil
- ¼ cup toasted walnuts
- ¼ cup toasted almonds
- ¾ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup grana padano finely grated
- ¼ cup parmesan finely grated
- salt and pepper
- Place garlic with a pinch of sea salt in a large mortar. Grind until garlic resembles a pasta.
- Add ½ cup basil leaves and grind until broken down. Add another ½ cup and grind until broken down. Repeat until all basil leaves have been ground.
- Add walnuts and almonds and grind with the basil and garlic mixture. Add oil and grind until mixture is combined.
- Add gran padano and parmesan and grind until combined. Season with salt and pepper.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Since we're going to be making the ultimate walnut almond basil pesto, we might as well go all out and use a mortar and pestle. Pesto is traditionally prepared with a mortar and pestle but feel free to use a food processor or blender instead. Just be careful not to over mix when using an appliance since that will bruise the herbs and release too many oils from the nuts.
Since there aren't many ingredients in this sauce, make sure to use quality ingredients. I usually opt for the cheaper parmesan but this time I decided to buy the more expensive choice. In reality, it was only about $2-3 more but the taste is undeniably more noticeable. Great parmesan should be nutty, salty, even a little fruity. Lower quality parmesan tends to be a little bitter, not a desirable flavor in cheese.
If you're having a difficult time finding grana padano, you can substitute parmesan. Grana Padano has a more subtle flavor than parmesan and is actually cheaper than the latter.
Make sure to taste your walnut almond basil pesto and season accordingly. Once prepared, enjoy as soon as possible! Spread it on a toasted baguette, mix it in your pasta or toss roasted vegetables with it. The possibilities with great pesto are endless.