Recipes are © Sandra Rosy Lotti/Toscana Saporita Cooking School.
Pesto alla Genovese:
This is something students learn the first morning of the week-long program. Pesto is something seen very often, especially in summer months (even in the States), as it is a great way to enjoy the abundance of fresh basil. Although common, the methods for making this pesto or paste vary considerably, and sadly, most result in the pesto (from green basil leaves) turning out a dull slightly brownish green color (due to the oxidation of the leaves and friction from processing the ingredients). Fear not! Master Chef and Owner of Toscana Saporita is here to rescue you and your dull pesto, and has the secret to bright green pesto! Once you make it this way, you will NEVER make it any other way! Not only does it taste great, it looks amazing, the way one would think pesto should look, a vibrant bright green color (and can even be refrigerated or frozen and still maintain that color! This is something really simple– tricks like this will make your end result, the presentation and flavors at the table infinitely better! This is why to attend Toscana Saporita Cooking School, to learn literally a thousand things like this! Drumroll please…
6 cups of sweet basil leaves, rinsed, stems removed (In Liguria, they do not use large leaf basil, it is too strong in flavor and too tough, look for smaller leaves, and the best is to grow your own basil and pick before it goes to seed).
1 cup raw pine nuts
2 1/2 cups fruity extra virgin olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1 clove of garlic
1 pinch of salt
- Blanch the basil for a 10 seconds in hot boiling water with a pinch of baking soda. Transfer to ice cold water. Squeeze dry.
- Place everything in a food processor and pulse until you have a creamy texture.
- Toss with your favorite al dente pasta- I use several tablespoons of pesto per person (3-4 ounces of pasta), with a splash of pasta water as needed to loosen it up, and a sprinkle of freshly grated cheese at the table.
- Trofie with Pesto alla Genovese (pictured below).
Olio al Basilico- Basil Oil
The purpose of the following method is to maintain the color and the flavor of the basil intact. Then you can add this basil oil to all those recipes calling for basil. Everyone knows how delicate basil is, how easy it turns dark or brown. Making basil oil is easy, and with this method you will have the fresh aroma, taste and color of basil also during the cold months.
3 cups fresh basil leaves
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt plus 1/8 for the oil 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Rinse the basil well, avoiding to squeeze it. Prepare a bowl with cold water and place it near you.
- Meanwhile bring 1/2 quart of water to a boil, add salt and baking soda and then add the basil.
- Simmer for 3 seconds.
- Immediately remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the bowl filled with cold water. You cansqueeze it with your hands now, since the color of the basil won’t be ruined anymore. Remove asmuch water as possible.
- Transfer to a food processor along with oil and salt. Pulse until pureed.
- Note: This oil can keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator and can be used as a flavor enhancer as well as a decorative oil. You can also keep it in the freezer for up to 6 months. It can be refrigerated in a squeezing bottle or in ice cube trays (once frozen pop the cubes into a ziplock bag so that the cubes won’t lose their fragrance) so that its use will be much easier. For a thinner consistency add more olive oil. For a thicker one, more basil.
- Variations: Parsley also makes a very good flavored olive oil. Use the same method above. HERBAL MARRIAGES – In Tuscany we always add fresh herbs to our dishes: Sage for beans; rosemary for chick peas; parsley for fish; basil for tomatoes; thyme, oregano, marjoram for stuffings; catnip for eggplants, zucchini, artichokes and mushrooms.