October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, special features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food. Bon appetit!
I'm a traditionalist when it comes to the classic dishes. Therefore, for me, pesto is made from basil, olive oil, cheese, garlic, pine nuts and salt. There is no sunflower oil, I don't replace the pine nuts with my beloved hazelnuts, I don't ditch the basil and add cilantro.
Don't get me wrong, those are all fine and tasty things to do, but it's just not pesto anymore, it's something else.
So, I stick to the rules of the Consorzio del Pesto Genovese, since it is the "official" pesto recipe and it's never done me wrong.
In true Italian style, the strict, official recipe is somewhat vague:
• Four bunches of fresh Genovese basil leaves.
• One "glass" of extra virgin olive oil. Must be from Liguria or contiguous Italian regions (Piedmont, Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna).
• Three "spoons" of Parmigiano-Reggiano (DOP) and three of Grana Padano or Pecorino from Romagna, Tuscany, Sicily or Sardinia.
• Two cloves of garlic
• One spoon of pine nuts (pinoli, not pignoli as we Americans want to spell it sometimes)
• And a pinch (a few grains, they say) of coarse salt.
• Walnuts are listed as "optional" and no amount is provided
Of course, you are officially meant to make the pesto from these ingredients in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. However, I break with tradition here because who has this kind of time these days (I know, you'll pummel me for my hypocrisy in the talkbacks, but go ahead, I can take it), so I admit that I use the dreaded food processor. Although I can't do anything about the evil stainless steel blades, I am very careful to pulse and let the pesto rest while I'm working it in the food processor. Too much heat is no good. So, don't be in too much of a hurry at this stage.
The best way to be sure about the proper blend is to taste it as you go. Start with conservative amounts and you can adjust. Put in way too much garlic and it's going to be hard to go back.
You can freeze your pesto or put it in the fridge and use it asap. A couple drops of lemon juice will help preserve the bright green color. Freeze the pesto in ice cube trays and you have pre-made serving sizes!
Serve your pesto Ligurian style: toss it with trofie pasta, green beans and boiled potatoes!
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.