In Provenacal dialect, pistou literally means pounded. It brings together the two cornerstones of Provenacal cuisine: garlic and olive oil, simple, but essential ingredient to the sunny taste of Provence. Grinding together garlic, olive oil and basil makes a vibrant green sauce, which can be used to flavor numerous Provenacal dishes.
With the exception of soup, pistou is a raw sauce and should never be heated, for a couple of reasons. First, making pistou is all about using the best quality ingredients, especially an excellent extra-virgin olive oil. Heating olive oil even for a short period of time will affect its strong flavor, which is very welcome in dishes such as this. It will also reduce the health benefits that extra-virgin olive oil brings.
Traditionally pistou is pounded in a mortar with pestle, but can also be done in a food processor. If both are absent, then simply mix the minced garlic with finely chopped basil and olive oil and it will work just fine.
In Provence, many variation of pasta with pistou sauce can be found. Some recipes call for tomatoes, some even add pine nuts, which give a nice texture to the pasta.
If using pine nuts and tomatoes, add the pine nuts at the stage of grinding basil with garlic while the tomatoes can either be stirred in together with olive oil (no grinding!) or served on top.
500g fresh tagliatelle
2 large garlic cloves, chopped (or 4 small ones)
a large handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
20 g Parmigiano Regianno
Coarse salt and freshly grounded black pepper
1 tbsp pine nuts(optional)
1 tomato, peeled, deseeded and chopped (optional)
1. In a mortar add garlic, basil, a generous pinch of salt and pepper and pound everything till you have a paste like consistency. This will only take 30 seconds -1 minute of work. Stir in the olive oil and your pistou sauce is ready.
2. Cook the tagliatelle according to package instructions, drain and mix with pistou sauce. Serve with some grated or shaved Parmigiano Regianno on top.