Friday Fun! Cooking with Joy: "Pesto Italiano"

The European connection.

How to make and enjoy a fresh, healthy, and authentic food experience. Add some good friends, photos, and fun: enjoy!

Europe still seems to have the magic touch when it comes to REAL food - food made from fresh ingredients that haven't been artificially manufactured or processed. During my trip to Europe with the Pacific Chorale in July, I had the privilege to enjoy two very savory meals involving some amazing Pesto with some good friends in Italy. In one meal, we were in Genoa - seen above - and the second in Bellagio (the most popular port of Lake Como), seen in the picture usually heading "Friday Fun" articles. We (myself and the friends with which I enjoyed these special and memorable meals) decided to attempt a re-creation of these Pesto experiences by making a fresh and fun meal together and sharing photos of the trip. Charles was able to come along for the fun and enjoy the results - food all made with real, fresh, healthy, and very yummy ingredients.

My contribution was the Pesto sauce itself and Insalata Caprese, a very good compliment to a Pesto meal: very fresh and healthy, and very easy to make. Just for fun, here's the recipe for Insalata Caprese:

4 medium/lg, organic, vine-ripened tomatoes
1 bunch of fresh, organic, large-sized basil leaves
fresh Mozzarella (best if in water) OR Mild RAW Cheese
Balsamic Vinegar OR RAW Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
Organic Cold-Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Take tomatoes (equivalent to the number of people you're feeding), cut into thick circular slices (reserve what you don't use to chop into side salads or for later use). Slice the mozzarella into round slices as well and place on top of the tomato slices (be careful, the real fresh stuff can be difficult to manage - you can try using an egg slicer if you don't trust your hand). Take the larger basil leaves and arrange on top of each tomato/mozzarella stack, and sprinkle the vinegar and olive oil on top of all. Easy, very enjoyable, and fresh!

(NOTE: Picture is raw cheese and Apple Cider Vinegar version.)


1 full cup fresh organic Basil leaves (tightly packed)
1 cup cream (raw organic cream best)
1 cup olive oil (Extra Virgin Organic)
1/3 cup unsalted butter (organic, raw, or European best)
1/3 cup pine nuts/pignolas (raw)
4 med/lg cloves garlic (organic)
1/2 cup raw authentic Parmigiano Reggiano (Whole Foods has)
pinch of Celtic Sea Salt
extra fresh leaves of Basil (for garnish)

As you can see, there are LOTS of good, wonderful fat in this meal. Don't be afraid! This is the stuff Rheo Blair thrived on! Of course, please do eat in moderation (and remember to have your enzymes with it to digest the fats). The vinegar in the salad (the Caprese or if you have an extra green side salad, which we also had, tossed with cucumber and some Herbes de Provence we had brought home from France) will also help.

Take the cup of basil (it's IMPORTANT that it's as tightly packed as possible; we need maximum flavor in minimum bulk - remember, Pesto is ultimately about the basil). You will really need a lot to pack that cup full, so purchase accordingly (one large fresh bunch or a few packages should work out - remembering you'll need more for the Caprese). Place this basil, the pine nuts, and at least 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a food processor and blend well. Meanwhile, be melting the butter in a saucepan, into which you will add the garlic, pressed. The butter heated together with the garlic will help release the flavor, especially if the garlic is pressed (allowing the juices to flow). Now add some of the olive oil, followed by the basil/pine-nut mixture. Pour in the cream and the rest of the olive oil, stirring often. Once this has simmered, begin slowly adding the cheese (making sure there are no lumps). Simmer on low, using a whisk to stir (the best way to avoid separation, which is the hardest part when making Pesto). Be sure the product doesn't stick or have a chance to burn. This is an essentially simple meal, though you have to be patient with the whisking. After it's thickened and cooled a little, you and your guests will melt as you have the first taste.

Of course, we are aware that there is a need for pasta to go with the Pesto. Never fear. For those of you who want real flavor and taste in nutrient-dense whole-grain FRESH and HOME-MADE pasta (like they make in Europe), my friend Judi Elterman came up with the perfect recipe, modified from the Settlement Cookbook, passed down to her on the occasion of her wedding by her mother, who herself had used it in 1945 when she was first married. NOTE: ARTIFICIAL PRESERVATIVE-LADEN FOOD WAS NOT ALWAYS THE ALL - PERVASIVE BANE WE KNOW NOW!

Pasta Dough:

2 cups flour (organic stone-ground Whole Wheat)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 eggs, well beaten
2 tablespoons warm water

Directions from the cook-book: "Sift flour and salt onto a pastry board, make a well in the center and add eggs and water. Work the flour into the egg mixture, adding more water if necessary to make a stiff but malleable dough. Knead on the board until smooth. Divide dough in half and let it rest for 30 minutes, covered. Roll out as thin as possible and cut into any desired shapes. Spread noodles on the board and let them dry well before using."

For the shape of the Pasta, Judi took the long thin strips she had cut from the fresh dough and braided them together, two at a time. She then cut them into smaller pieces, making the perfect twisted-tied bite-sized pasta for the Pesto.

Hints: 1) Beware that the egg will go everywhere when you first try to mix it into the flour; make sure the flour is formed into a high enough mound with a deep enough well (something in which to contain it all won't hurt at this stage while mixing). 2) Spread a small amount of Olive Oil on your board and roller before kneading. 3) Be careful not to twist the strips of dough, but braid it carefully to avoid a mushed and unattractive shapeless form. Cut with a sharp knife for the same reason.

Boiling the Pasta:
After your pasta is dried (you can make in advance), boil in water with either salt or olive oil (the latter is best) for approximately 20 minutes. The whole grains take longer to cook than white flour, so bear that in mind. Keep tasting to make sure it's cooked through. Of course, the good news is that it's fresh, so the cooking part is incidental and only makes for a nicer consistency. For raw foodists, this meal can be completely raw if you wish (although the Pesto may need some alterations, and honestly it's much more yummy and melty this way).

This is just one of the best comprehensive meals - not as easy to make as other things, but COMPLETELY worth it, from the standpoints of both health and taste. This meal is COMPLETELY FRESH, homemade, organic, and the fats from the Pesto will really absorb the glycemic impact of the carbs in the Pasta (which are wholistic complex carbs in this recipe anyway, filled with its own natural protein). There is so much that's healthy about this as well as amazingly yummy.

So get some friends and enjoy a good time with this fresh and healthy Pesto Italiano meal!

See you next Friday!
Lorraine Joy

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Information found on Rheo H. Blair: The Book is meant for educational and informational purposes only, and to motivate you to make your own health care and dietary decisions based upon your own research and in partnership with your health care provider. It should not be relied upon to determine dietary changes, a medical diagnosis or courses of treatment.