Presto Pesto!

The first time I tried to make pesto, I didn’t know I needed to use a food processor. In my defense, the recipe claimed that one could use either a blender or a food processor. And maybe some other blender would have been capable of this feat, but mine certainly wasn’t up to the challenge.

I stuck all the ingredients (except olive oil) into the blender and pulsed as directed. The blades spun and I waited for the fragrant basil to turn into emerald colored paste. But nothing appeared to be happening.  A few wayward pine nuts danced around a bit, but that’s it. I peered inside. Next to the blades a few leaves had yielded into mush. This was promising. Maybe it just needed more time.  And different settings.

After several minutes I admitted to myself I wasn’t making any progress. I stuck a butter knife into the blender to try to move things around. (I wonder if I unplugged the machine first or removed the pitcher from the stand. The fact that I still have all ten digits and my eyesight suggests I took appropriate precautions. Or that I was just lucky.) After more pureeing, blending and pulsing, one or two more leaves disappeared, but the rest sat above the blades in an unruffled pile. It seemed impossible, but most of the greens were still whole.

Maybe the leaves needed to be squished down towards the blade. This time I used the rubber scraper. Not much more luck on the next series of grating, grinding, and whipping.

Perhaps the recipe was incorrect, I concluded, and the olive oil might lubricate the whole process if I added it before the rest of the ingredients were ground up. This didn’t seem to speed up the process any. It took me about an hour or whirring and scrunching, and a kitchen decorated in olive oil slicks and green puddles, but eventually all the leaves were subdued into a paste. It would have been considerably faster to mince the ingredients by hand. By this time I’d concluded that no person with a job could be expected to make homemade pesto.

I’m pretty sure I had a food processor at the time. And during my next several, equally laborious, preparations. The food processor, with its choices of blades, and requirements that every part be seated properly and locked into place before it would even begin turning, must have seemed like a big production to me. Besides, for a long time it didn’t occur to me that it would work out any differently.

Finally, for whatever reason, I gave the food processor a try. I dumped my ingredients into the bowl and worked for about ten minutes to get everything snapped into position, getting pretty grumpy. But then I hit pulse and watched in amazement as all the leaves magically whirred into the most beautiful green shards. It took seconds. I staggered back from the machine, tears in my eyes.

Easy Pesto

  • ½ cup or more firmly packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup firmly packed baby spinach leaves
  • ¼ cup pine nuts (or walnuts)
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 small cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Food-process the basil, spinach, nuts, cheese, and garlic to a rough paste. You may need to scrape down the sides once. Slowly pour in the olive oil while the blade is spinning. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss with hot pasta.

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