Pesto is an Italian sauce that is a specialty of Genoa, Italy. It is never cooked (or heated for that matter) and is made with fresh basil, extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and cheese. Pesto’s primary purpose (and only purpose if you ask a Genovese) is to sauce pasta. Purists will tell you the only way to make this flavorful, seductive sauce is with a mortar and pestle. I use a food processor.
The reason this is a light pesto is because I use ricotta in place of some of the oil. You’d never know it has fewer calories by the rich, garlic-basil flavor you’ll get in every bite. This is a versatile sauce that can be spooned on top of fresh sliced tomatoes, spread on bruschetta, used as a sauce for poached chicken or grilled vegetables and in summer lasagna salad. When used to dress your favorite pasta, top with a generous grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
- 4 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves (stems removed)
- 1/2 cup ricotta
- 3 tablespoons Extra-virgin olive oil (Delicate), plus more to cover top of jar if stored
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Using a food processor, combine all of the ingredients and process until smooth.
- Transfer pesto to a glass jar and cover with a thin layer of olive oil. Seal tightly and store in refrigerator until ready to use. Makes approximately 1 1/4 cups. Bring to room temperature before using.