Pesto is my favorite pasta sauce — it’s got salty, spicy, nutty, and herbal notes. I like a modified classic version with basil, pine nuts, Parmigiano Reggiano, olive oil, salt, garlic, and a touch of lemon juice. But I’m often too cheap and I swap out the basil for spinach and the pine nuts for walnuts. It’s still amazing.
Pesto is Ligurian in origin. My friend Musetta has family from Abruzzo (where, as she notes, the ladies are known to be stubborn), so it’s not quite on point, but she was completely supportive of my desire to make a pesto style ice cream. Unlike some other people that will remain nameless. “But I wouldn’t use cheese, of course,” I said. “Well, of course not.” she replied. But if you want to sprinkle some as a garnish, I won’t tell.
1 bunch basil, chopped (about half a cup)
Pinch of salt
½ cup sugar
2 cups milk
2 cups cream
2 egg yolks
½ cup olive oil
½ cup toasted pine nuts
Using an immersion blender, blend first five ingredients in a medium pot (or use a regular blender and then transfer into a medium pot). Simmer for fifteen minutes on low heat, then remove from heat and cover for thirty minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk yolks and olive oil until combined. Reheat dairy mixture on stove on medium heat. When warm, ladle one cup into bowl to temper the egg/oil mixture. When fully whisked, transfer back to stove top. Using a rubber spatula, stir and scrape the bottom until the mixture begins to thicken. It may not sufficiently thicken to cover the back of the spatula, but continue to cook until it just starts to simmer. Remove from heat and strain into a bowl.
Once the base has strained, place the bowl in an ice bath to cool for thirty minutes (if you’re too lazy, it’s ok to just do this on the counter). Then, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and refrigerate for at least two hours before churning.
When churning, add the pine nuts when the mixture starts to thicken; then, when relatively stiff, transfer to a bowl and freeze for eight hours.