I love this recipe because it's so simple, so flavorful and is essentially a brilliant vehicle for my favorite ingredient: Parmesan!
Technique tips: Heat your serving bowl by using it as a lid for the pasta pot!
Add a pinch of salt into the mortar to create friction and help break down the garlic.
Swap options: Instead of a mortar and pestle, pesto can also be made in a food processor or blender. Just do your best not to over-blend the basil because the heat from the motor can cause it to blacken.
Use bucatini, penne, garganelli or casarecce instead of trofie or spaghetti.
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1 medium clove garlic, peeled
- 2 cups tightly packed basil leaves, preferably Genovese
- 2/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
- 1/3 cup finely grated pecorino, preferably pecorino sardo
- Sea salt
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- 1 pound trofie or spaghetti
1. Set a large pot of water to boil over high heat.
2. Use a mortar and pestle to pound and grind the pine nuts to a fine paste (no distinct pieces should be visible). Add the garlic and pound until smooth and integrated.
3. If the basil leaves are very large, run a knife through them once or twice to cut them down in size. Add basil to pine nuts along with a pinch of salt, which will help break down the leaves. Continue pounding and grinding until the basil breaks down completely (if your mortar is small, pound the basil in batches), about 7 minutes. Once the nuts and basil combine into a thick green paste, stir in Parmesan, pecorino, and oil. Taste and adjust salt as needed.
4. Generously season water with salt. Cook pasta until al dente, then drain, reserving a cup of cooking water.
5. Place cooked pasta in serving bowl and stir in pesto. Add splashes of cooking water and olive oil as needed to loosen the sauce and ensure the pasta is evenly coated. Garnish with Parmigiano and serve immediately.
6. Immerse any leftover pesto in olive oil. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.