I’ve been going a little rogue lately — but with good reason, I promise. See, every week the TME team meets to discuss content — what we’re loving, what you guys have been asking for, and, ideally, topics that combine the best of both so that we publish posts that everyone can get genuinely excited about. In short: it’s not just a free-for-all. There’s some strategy involved. (And honestly it’s one of the most chill, entertaining conference call situations I’ve ever been a part of. Sometimes we even get to watch Scotti do her hair or makeup live, which is, like, SO MUCH BETTER than a YouTube video. Anyway…)
The thing is, thanks to summer break, I’ve been more or less absent from these calls for the past month, road-tripping with the little one and all. But then an idea will strike me (or an hour of child-free work time will miraculously present itself), and I’m suddenly inspired to post about something that no one else on the team has had a chance to audit. Like…last-minute lunch-packing ideas, let’s say. Or this pesto genovese, which I’m going to just casually label as The Best Pesto I’ve Ever Had.
I’m going to assume that, hot off her sexy little Italian vacay, Shana will back me up on this one, because it’s too good not to share. Super-easy (which, you know, is kinda my thing), CRAZY flavorful, and silky as can be. And for some reason, almost every kiddo I know — even the young ones — can get behind pesto, so I’m going to go ahead and say family-friendly, too. (I realize there are some wee ones out there for whom green foods are the equivalent of the boogeyman, and to parents of those children I say: to heck with them. Make the pesto for yourself, and then let the littles eat the plain pappardelle with a little butter and cheese, and call it a night. You can’t win ’em all.)
So, what makes this particular pesto so good? I’m so glad you asked! Allow me:
Super-Easy, Creamy Pesto Recipe
A couple of months ago, Chris and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary with a quick overnight in Napa, and on the way out of town, we decided to stop for dinner instead of sitting in traffic on the bridge. One of the folks at the winery we’d last visited (it was Garrett at Elyse — which I can’t recommend enough; it’s fantastic for a couple or very small groups; excellent wines, very intimate; reservations required) had mentioned the fried olives at Bistro Don Giovanni’s, so when we passed by on the highway, it seemed like a sign. Now, I won’t pretend that Bistro Don Giovanni’s is particularly inventive in its menu nor off-the-beaten-path — it was bustling and riddled with tourists, like ourselves — but their handmade pasta and classic Italian dishes are done so well, there’s no need to get creative. If it ain’t broke, folks….And even though I’m not typically the biggest fan of pesto, after a long afternoon of wine tasting, there was something about those silky handkerchiefs swimming in a light, verdant sauce that called to me.
Turns out, the fried olives were, as promised, stellar, and their pesto is unlike any I’ve had before, namely because of the texture. It’s blended into an almost completely smooth puree, and it’s thin enough that it thoroughly coats each piece of pasta in velvety oblivion. It’s completely different from the pesto you might find in a jar or even in the refrigerated section — and even a far cry from the pestos I’ve made for many years at home. The flavor profile is more delicate, too — not overly sharp from the garlic, and with (what I’m guessing is) a fair amount of pasta water ladled into the mix right before serving to add a little more salinity and loosen things up a little. After a couple of gos attempting to knock it off at home, I’m pretty confident presenting the recipe below as the next best thing. In a move that’s slightly less traditional, it employs cashews in the place of classic pine nuts (slightly more affordable and unbeatably creamy) and just the faintest bit of pecorino romano, which keeps the sauce lighter bodied but still plenty flavorful. Served over wide ribbons of slippery pappardelle (which is always my go-to, store-bought pasta if I’m trying to approximate the texture of homemade), it’s as close as you can get to our Napa experience.
Especially if you down a bottle of wine first.
Our Favorite Pesto Genovese
Our Favorite Pesto Genovese -- creamier and silkier than most pestos, this blended version is the perfect complement to fat ribbons of pappardelle. And easy as can be.
- 3.5-4 oz fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 small cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 T pecorino romano cheese
- 2-4 T reserved pasta cooking water
- sea or Himalayan pink salt, to taste
- For Serving:
- 12 oz dried pappardelle pasta, prepared according to package directions
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt liberally and cook pasta according to package directions, reserving about 1/4 cup pasta cooking water.
While pasta cooks, combine basil, cashews, olive oil and garlic in a high powered blender (we are currently using this one) and blend until combined, scraping down sides as needed.
Add cheese and 2 T pasta cooking water; blend again until just smooth. If pesto is still too thick, add a splash more cooking water, one tablespoon at a time. Season to taste with salt. Serve with hot pasta. Enjoy!
A blender, not a food processor, is key to getting the silky texture we're after here. We are currently using this model by Wolf Gourmet, but I also love the classic Vitamix, which is an absolute workhorse.
Shop My Favorite High-Speed Blenders (Tried & True!)
Cheers to going rogue!
Guys! Follow me on Instagram for more peeks into our life on the Northern California coast. And if you feel so inclined, pop over to my personal food + lifestyle blog, The Pig & Quill, where I share salty scribblings from my kitchen and home life. Byeeeeee!
And this one’s for the Pinners:
I always make my pesto in my food processor. Why is it so important to do it in a blender? Is it just because it blends it more than a food processor? My food processor is stronger/better than my blender–that’s why it’s usually my go-to in recipes like this one.
I love the high-speed blender because I was truly seeking a super creamy end result — but if your food processor is the bigger beast, by all means use that! Especially since this recipes uses a little extra pasta cooking liquid, you might be able to get it pretty close. Will be great tasting either way even if it’s not as silky smooth. Let me know how it goes!
This looks wonderful — can’t wait to try it! Your garlicky beans and smoked Gouda mac and cheese are already regulars in our dinner rotation! Thanks for keeping it simple and flavorful!
Makes my day, Joelle — so stoked you guys have been enjoying the recipes!
This looks delicious! Would it work dairy-free if I omitted the cheese? Or does that ruin the flavor profile of the pesto? In future posts I’d love you to death if you mentioned briefly whether a recipe can (or can’t) be adapted to various dietary restrictions 😉
Heyyyo — so you can absolutely omit the cheese (I went completely dairy-free for a couple of years when Lana was breastfeeding, so I did a lot of recipe workarounds) but I’d be sure it was adequately salted — and if you have it, I might add in a pinch of nutritional yeast. Let me know if you give it a try!
This was totally delicious – thank you. I had to make it in a food processor and it came out very smooth, no complaints. Can only imagine what magic a blender produces.
Yay! Right on, love to hear that, JC. We made it (again) tonight in the blender and it IS super creamy, but I’m so glad the food processor worked well for you!
This is AWESOME!!! Thank you for all of your recipes. I love each one. They are simple, easy, and DELICIOUS. To the person asking about dairy free- I omitted the dairy and added in a little nutritional yeast like Emily suggested. It was delicious- and my teens, who have allergies, wolfed it down!