I’d always been curious and thought about buying a mortar and pestle. I’d seen it used in so many cuisines, from Vietnam to Thailand to Mexico and across South American and African cuisines. Yet I’d put off buying one for so long, thinking that I wouldn’t use it very much. And since I live in Manhattan, space has always factored in as an issue, as a mortar and pestle is something I’d want on display in my kitchen. I finally sucked it up a couple months ago and bought one, and on average since then I’ve used it about once a week, which is pretty darn good for a kitchen item I had hesitated on for so long. I’ve used it to crush whole, toasted spices, mash sauces, smash ginger and garlic, and today, I’ve finally used it for pesto.
Since I first watched Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat Netflix series and read her book by the same name, I knew I had to try my hand at making pesto with a mortar and pestle. Before I watched this, I had never really thought about the mechanics of how a mortar and pestle is different than a food processor. I’d only ever made pesto with a food processor. So to learn and think about the fact that a food processor, with a metal blade that rips and shreds ingredients, would yield a different texture and taste vs. a mortar and pestle, which crushes individual cells to release aromatic compounds, was quite fascinating and made me think about how to do this myself.
So I tried it today and filmed a video on it, and the end result was what I suspected; the taste and texture were far, far superior to pesto made in a food processor. It really could not be compared; it was thicker, creamier, chunkier, and so much nuttier and richer in taste and scent. It was certainly an arm workout, as it took a very long time to fully crush the basil leaves, but all that work was worth it. I think I’m ruined on regular pesto from here on out.