Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Pirate Pasta al pesto

Useless chats

Traditional recipe for Mediterranean pirates, Pasta al Pesto is even more famous because it must be prepared using a mortar, a typical siege tool well known by many sturdy buccaneers.

Ingredients like basil, pecorino, Parmesan, gunpowder and garlic make this recipe particularly loved by many pirates, that see in the thick twist of linguine another proof of love from Our Noodley Lord, even if in a green summer dress.


A note

As an Italian pirate, I feel more confident with the International System of Units. That means grams and liters, in a kitchen. I know that many of you comes from different seas, so I pot all the measures in grams. That's easy: they are proportional! So you can just substitute the word grams with the your preferred unity of measure, and you'll get your recipe. Sure, maybe in a weird quantity, but with the correct ingredient proportions: 100 pounds of pasta, 25 pounds of basil and so on. Easy, right?

Otherwise, you can just go there:


Better long shaped, like Spaghetti, linguine or trenette, the original shape for the Ligurian pirates who invented the recipe. Usually about 80/100 grams for wenches, a little more for hungry sea dogs, plus a couple of extra spots for the travellers or doubles.


That must be done, of course. If you are thinking to buy it, this recipe will be just go on your nearest grocery and take it.

To make a good pesto you'll need:


Fresh, 25 grams every 200 grams of pasta. To get it fresh it's better to get it later, when the sun is not burning its leaves. If you get it with a raid at your neighbor's it's even better, because the story of this dangerous challenge will delight your guest during the the meal.

Olive oil

50 grams for 200 grams of pasta. If you remember to put it in the fridge some hours before, that would be great.

Grated cheese, Parmesan or pecorino

Or better a mix of them, depends how good they are and if you want it more tasty (pecorino) or sweet (Parmesan). For example, in Northern Italy Pecorino is soooo bad that I avoid it totally, while in Southern you probably have the opposite situation. You can even choose other grated cheeses, I think, but stay on these! Don't make me say why.

However, you'll need 50 grams of grated cheese for 200 grams of pasta.

Pine nuts

7 or 8 grams can be enough. But they costs more than gold, so sometimes I do the blasphemous act to put walnuts or something else in behalf. In Liguria they probably chase pirate cooks who do this to hang them on the higher pole of the ship, but I'm pretty sure that they could not feel the difference. Indeed they are known to be quite parsimonious, maybe they already do without tell anyone.


Not too much, if you are a social pirate. One slice can be enough for 200 grams of pasta, but it depends. If you comes from Southern France or Korea, you'll probably can't even feel the flavor with one slice, and you'd like to put some more. That's on you. Just don't call it pesto, but pale green Garlic Sauce.

In any case, remember to cut it in half and clean the core.

Salt, pepper, gunpowder

On your taste.


You have to merge all ingredients, except the pasta, that must be boiled in the usual way.

So, first let's put on the water to boil. A liter for every 100 grams, that's the book's suggestion. If you have Italian guests, remember to put the pasta just when the water is boiling, or they'll probably faint and harm themselves with their cutlasses, ruining your dinner.

Caught the basil? Good. It's better not to wash it too much, otherwise the best part will go down in the sink. Sure, it's a raw ingredient, so if your cat is used to sleep and hunt spiders in your garden, maybe we can pass it with a wet towel. In this case, if our guests ask us: "did you wash the basil?" we can say yes, with no lies. Or say no, if you know them as scurvy dogs with no fear of food poisoning.

In any case, basil must be dry as gunpowder at the end. Water is the enemy number 2 in the pesto preparation. Will meet number 1 soon.

There's a strict order to put ingredients in the mortar, but we are pirates, not English officers! And the water is almost boiling, and the guests almost knocking the door, so let's take our fast and faithful friend: the blender. We can see this in the pirate movie "The Goonies", when the Fratelli brothers try to chop Chunk's fingers. So it's a blessed tool, in a certain way.

It's impossibile to chop basil alone with a blender. We have to put all other ingredients together. Here's number 1 enemy: Oxygen. That nasty element oxidise our precious chopped basil, that will quickly turn dark if we do not protect it with an abundant olive oil cover. How to avoid oxidation even more? With cold. That's why oil coming from fridge is even better.

If you put all ingredients in the blender (with exception of pasta and the beer you should be drinking, of course) you'll probably be watching these wonderful green and oily waves spinning inside it. That's true poetry! The second sensorial pleasure moment is when you open the top, and that blessed perfume goes all around the kitchen.

If you did all right, you got this brilliant green and pesto, otherwise it's brown or dark green. Not that beautiful, but good the same. Sure, blended basil is more stressed that the one passed through a mortar, but in this case you'll be much more stressed than the basil, and probably late for your dinner. It's your choice.

So, water is sure boiling. Add the right salt, taste it and taste the pesto too, if you still have to. Don't be too vague here: even the drunken pirate will know if salt is not right. Pepper and gunpowder for pesto are optional. You can decide what's better.

Did it? Dive the pasta.

When it's cooked go with the strainer. Sure it's better to prove that you did the pesto, that's why it's not a bad idea to take it out from the blender in front of your guests. That will make your guests in the right mood, even if your pesto is not the best. Mix all in a bowl and give some to all your hungry buccaneers. It's enough for everyone? Good, you don't have to ask some back to the firsts, that will be already chewing and sure disappointed.

That's my dish.

It's a photo taken some years ago, with two basil leaves too. They have a different color, what an effort. Sorry, taking photos of food with hunger is too difficult for me.



  1. Did not know about the benefits of cold olive oil in making pesto. This post was such fun to read ! Think I'll skip the gunpowder, however.
    Would add that it's good to put extra pesto into an ice cube tray and freeze. Once frozen, transfer to a sealable container, and you'll have pesto in winter. Good to add to other things in addition to pasta

  2. Cap'n Alberto

    This be a recipe to shiver me piratey timbers. In the Spring I be making a pesto with wild garlic ransomes. Ye just substitute ye freshly picked wild garlic leaves for basil and add in a bit more cheese (as it can be somewhat over powered by ye garlic).

    I be thinking that there be an Italian pirate now holding his head in his hands sobbing about the English doing terrible things in the name of cookery.....

    Cap'n Vic