What is a Mortar and Pestle and how is it used?

What is a Mortar and Pestle and how is it used?

This handy kitchen utensil is the predecessor of the food processor.  It’s a must have for Italian and Mediterranean influenced food.  Place garlic, herbs, pepper flakes in the bowl—the mortar—and mash and mash and mash these ingredients together with the Pestle.

Purest insist that pesto or the French variation called pistou, cannot be made without a mortar and pestle.  Of course, we all cheat when making a large batch of pesto.  We reach for the food processor.

Pasta with Fava Beans, Garlic and Olive Oil

1 cup (approximately) peeled, blanched fava beans
2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
5-6 leaves Italian parsley (flat leaf)
2 portions linguine or fettuccine
3-4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place ¼ cup of the Fava beans in the mortar.  Add the garlic, parsley, pepper flakes and salt.  Using the pestle, mash these ingredients together.  Scrap down the sides of the bowl from time to time and slide the mixture off the sides of the pestle.

When the mixture starts to become a paste, add the oil.  Continue to mix and mash.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water. While the pasta is cooking, add olive oil, the remaining Fava beans and the mixture from the mortar to a non-stick sauté pan. Bring this “sauce” just to the boil and then turn off the heat.

Drain the pasta and add it to the sauté pan. Add a couple of tablespoons of the pasta cooking water. Toss the pasta with the Fava beans, taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve in warm bowls with a garnish of minced parsley. Pass the grated cheese.

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