Ever since my daughter was 1 1/2, Alessandra has loved to “pretend” cook in her play kitchen, and while I cooked lunch or dinner. She often dons her paper chef’s hat and apron in the process of preparing her cooking surface, a $20 plastic IKEA table sitting in our kitchen. Alessandra is pretty serious, and she will repeatedly request that I call her chef. She then methodically asks me to get her a bowl or pan, spoon, and spatula. I use the word “ask”, but think of Gordon Ramsey. She’s a demanding cookie.
We often go to my mother’s for dinner and one of the things she will cook is homemade pesto with fusilli. Alessandra loves this pesto sauce and store bought pesto doesn’t come close. So I thought making our own pesto would be great cooking project. This would give Alessandra an opportunity to make her own dinner and we could include the leftovers for her school lunch. Below are the ingredients we used.
From the Food Network Website : (link)
- 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese or favorite type of cheese such as Parmesan Reggiano. I prefer Pecorino because of the subtle but noticeable saltiness of the cheese.
Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese. For the first time, we only put in 1 clove of garlic since my daughter is only 3, but normally garlic is an important ingredient.
Except for chopping the stems off the basil, Alessandra did everything herself. She respected the power of the food processor and listened carefully to instructions. Knowing that her pesto sauce would go on her plate was good motivation for diligence. In the end, she poured just enough oil to get a pesto consistency and we poured it into a bowl. Seeing how much she cared about making this sauce was heart warming and proud to watch.
For the final step, we added the cheese and we knew it was ready when Alessandra looked at this green glob of sauce, took a small spoon and very very carefully took a taste. When she smiled and said, “It tastes so good, just like grandmas.” She proudly ate her pesto sauce and pasta for three days afterwards.
As a father, it was one my favorite father/daughter moments. For Alessandra, it created a desire to cook and to be proud of her own creations.