By Danielle Caminiti

Published in the TML Magazine Issue 18, 2022


Serves: 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: None for the sauce, just for the pasta according to package directions.

  • 1 pound of trofie (or trenette) pasta
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
  • 2 cups of rinsed and dried fresh basil leaves, packed – the small leaves are the most flavorful
  • 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, extra if desired for serving
  • 1/4 cup of freshly grated Pecorino Sardo or
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, extra if desired for serving. 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup of pignoli nuts, extra for garnish
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Instructions (Mortar & pestle method)

  1. In a large mortar, add the pignoli nuts, salt, and garlic cloves. Using a large pestle, pound and scrape the ingredients into a very smooth paste, 5–7 minutes. Add the basil in small amounts, working it into the mixture after each addition, until all the basil has been added and the mixture is smooth and creamy, 15–20 minutes.
  2. Slowly add the oil while stirring with the pestle until emulsified. Add both cheeses and stir with the pestle to incorporate.

Instructions (Food processor method)

  1. In a food processor or blender, pulse the basil and pine nuts until finely chopped.
  2.  Add the garlic and both cheeses, and continue pulsing, stopping a couple of times to scrape the sides of the blender or food processor canister with a rubber spatula for the remnants.
  3. While the food processor or blender is running, stream in the olive oil gingerly in a small stream. This will help it emulsify and prevent the oil from separating. Stop blending a few times to continue scraping the remnants from the sides with the spatula.
  4. Stir in the salt and pepper, add more to taste. Bring a salted pot of water to rapid boil and cook the pasta al dente according to package directions, about 8-10 minutes, retaining 1 cup of reserved pasta water. Toss the pesto with the steaming, strained pasta. Add 1 additional tablespoon of olive oil for more even coating of the sauce and pasta water to desired consistency.


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