I haven’t blogged much this summer. It’s been a rough one. My beloved mom, Anna Maria Di Elsi, born in 1929 in Philadelphia, PA passed away on June 11.
Pictured above – Mom with one of the “seven fishes” we eat on Christmas Eve: Crab Legs in Marinara Sauce (2005?)
Truth be told, I really haven’t been able to experience the joy and passion I had for cooking since then. I think it’s probably because my mother LIVED to cook and without her as daily inspo, and to talk through important cooking decisions such as: “Do I use Parmesan or Romano? Small or medium-sized eggplant? Medium-low or medium-high heat?” I feel kinda lost.
To my mom – IT ALL MATTERED. For the past five years, since my dad passed, we would talk on the phone almost every day and while we typically cruised through less-important topics like work, the kids, Mr. EN, politics, the economy, and the weather; at least half of the time we spent talking every day was about cooking. More specifically, what was on our plates – hers and mine – for dinner that evening. How I miss that!
To get me back in the spirit (and habit) of weekly blogging, for weeks I’ve wanted to honor my mom with a tributary post that featured dozens of photos and one of her more complicated recipes like her mom’s spicy Chicken Cacciatore (“You have to cook it low and slow, with lots of bay leaf and garlic; let the wine soak in”), or her Linguine and White Clam Sauce (“white does NOT mean cream”), or practically every child’s and grandchild’s favorite, Spaghetti and Meatballs (“Who told you to use rice or oatmeal instead of bread crumbs? That’s just ridiculous.”) A complicated recipe and lots of photos to get me back on track? I just wasn’t feelin it.
So, today I bring you something my brother, my sister, and I have each made dozens of times alone and in younger years, together with mom. Something simple, straight forward, and unforgettable…just like she was. This recipe makes my heart happy and after giving it a little thought, I think it’s the perfect one to get my head in the right place again. Thanks for the inspiration mom. This one’s for you! XOXO
Here’s all you need:
To make this!
This Simple Basil Pesto can be used in so many ways …
- Stir into pasta and veggies (see below)
- Add to soups and stews
- Spread on crusty toasted bread
- Brush on fresh steamed corn
- Add to meatballs or burgers for a flavor punch
- Spoon over steamed veggies
- Add to homemade hummus
- Use as a topping for egg sandwiches
- Dollop onto fish or chicken and bake
What’s your favorite thing to do with pesto? Do you have any secret pesto-making tips? I’d love to hear more.
Peace, love and good eats, from our empty nest to yours.
Trending in the EN Kitchen: Parmesan cheese purchased at our local farm market, from The Cheese People of Grand Rapids
Mr. EN’s Take on This Recipe: “This is the best pesto you’ve ever made. Your mom taught me how important sharing food and family is. Every time I smell basil I think of her.”
And this just in September 22, my smart, talented and beautiful niece Alyssa holding her pesto she made using this recipe. Check out that jazzy apron! It was my mom’s.
Pesto My Moms Way
- 2 cups freshly washed (and still a little moist) basil leaves (no stems), packed
- good pinch or two, coarse kosher salt
- 2-3 tablespoons pine nuts, optional - lightly toasted
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½-3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup freshly grated high-quality Parmesan cheese
- (optional) small squeeze fresh lemon juice
- Combine basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts and salt in a food processor and process until finely minced.
- With the machine running slowly dribble in the oil and process until the mixture is smooth and reaches desired consistency. Add a teensy bit (about 1/2 teaspoon) of fresh lemon juice if you like lemon. If not, skip it.
- Add the cheese and process very briefly, just long enough to combine. Use immediately or store in refrigerator (up to five days) or freezer.
- Dry or limp basil leaves that have been too long off the plant will not work well. Make sure the basil is very fresh. If you grow basil, water it well, let the roots and leaves soak up the water, and harvest the basil when it looks its healthiest, preferably in the morning.
- I freeze pesto in ice cube trays. Once frozen I pop the cubes out and store in the freezer in zip-top bag. Pesto will stay fresh in the freezer for about six months.
- Making pesto is not an exact science. Add the amount of garlic, olive oil, cheese and salt to suit your taste and texture preference.