Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mark Peel's Pesto (Pasta)

Pesto is a flavorful Italian condiment that is often used as a topping for crisp bruschetta, on a delicious no-tomato-sauce pizza, as a sauce for summery pasta, it even tastes fantastic when just spooned over golden oven roasted chicken. There are infinite possibilities with how you can combine and use this versatile pesto to liven up a dish.


Pesto is usually made with fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil - all crushed to make a deliciously fragrant sauce. Fresh pesto is vibrant and brilliant green in color and is best when used immediately. But I know a lot of people make pesto and stash it away in the refrigerator for a rainy day. This pesto keeps for at least 2 weeks when refrigerated. As the basil gets oxidised quickly, make sure to pour a thin film of olive oil to keep the discoloration minimal. The appearance suffers but the taste is just as good. Once you make a batch of this use it liberally on sliced toasted baguettes, inside a wrap or make a delicious roasted vegetable sandwich.


This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart's Living Cookbook . A compilation of over 1200 recipes from the first decade of the magazine. It's a great book to have on your shelf, especially because it's so extensive and still has one of the best indexes that I've seen in a cookbook. So it's very easy to find a recipe with an ingredient that you have on hand and want to use up (very good for an ingredient hoarder like me, as I often buy a whole bunch of shiny new things to cook with and run out of ideas before the actual ingredient runs out). I've bookmarked quite a few recipes and cannot wait to try them out in my new oven!



Difficulty level - Easy
Cooking Time - 5 mins
Makes - 1/2 cup - enough to use as a sauce for a pound of pasta - serves four.

Mark Peel, chef/owner of Campanile in Los Angeles, makes this coarse-textured pesto using a mortar and pestle rather than a food processor. Basil leaves turn black if exposed to the air after they are cut, so pour extra virgin olive oil over the surface of the sauce to preserve its brilliant color.


3 garlic cloves
3 tbsps pine nuts, toasted ( I used walnuts instead)
1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more for seasoning ( I used sea salt instead)
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 tsp of fresh cracked black pepper ( my addition )
Fresh lemon juice


Using a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic and the nuts with 1/2 tsp of salt and 1tbsp of oil until pulverized. Add basil; work until you have a rough paste. Whisk in remaining oil in a stream. Season with salt and lemon juice.

To make pesto pasta - Cook pasta in rapidly boiling salted water until al-dente, usually takes around 10 -12 mins for dried pasta. Drain the pasta and reserve some of the cooking water. Coat the pasta liberally with the pesto. You can also add fresh grape tomatoes, olives, roasted eggplants and any other veggies that you like. If the pasta gets too dry, use the reserved cooking water to thin the sauce out.

Note - if you don't want to go the mortar, pestle and exercise route, blend all these ingredients in a blender to a coarse paste. It's totally optional but I add about 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan into the pesto just before using it. Feel free to leave this out if you don't intend to use it. If you do not plan on using the pesto immediately and want to refrigerate it - do not add the cheese until just before serving/using.


  1. beautiful beautiful picture.....looks like something out of a magazine

  2. hey so u finally decided on an oven?which one is it?
    pasta looks yum......for the basil one uses regular tulsi?

  3. I love the second photo! I've got a lovely basil plant growing to satiate all my fresh basil needs. Thing is I don't feel like using it because I don't want to tear out the leaves

  4. @ashwini

    What I've used here is Italian basil. Regular tulsi has a very different flavor and cannot be substituted for it.
    If you're having trouble finding fresh basil, you can find it at the following places in Bangalore -
    1)Nilgiris Supermarket on Brigade Road
    2)Russel market has a tiny shop that sells all kinds of italian and thai herbs that are difficult to find elsewhere.
    3)Try Namdharis or Monday to Sunday in Indiranagar.
    4)Another option - you can get your own basil plant from Lalbagh.

    Hope you find it and happy cooking! Let me know if you need any help.

  5. Lovely, I love fresh pesto, and your pasta looks very inviting.

  6. Pasta looks inviting ! I loved the idea of pesto made with a mortar and pestle, I think it must taste more yum than when ground using a blender or grinder...

  7. hey..have an award waiting for you..visit my blog to know more!