Who knew that something so small could be important for so many people and various industries? The mortar and pestle is a set of two simple tools used from the Stone Age to the present day to prepare ingredients or substances by crushing and grinding them into a fine paste or powder in kitchens, labs and pharmacies.
The mortar and pestle is used to prepare medications or medical concoctions. The mortar and pestle is also used in many holistic and spiritual processes by grinding herbs in the mortar with the pestle to create a combination of different properties within the herbs. In the culinary world, the mortar and pestle is not used as much as it was in the past because we have so many different tools for chopping and combining ingredients. But there is still good use for it! In mixology, some establishments still use the mortar and pestle to prepare mojitos and muddled drinks. In the kitchen, the mortar and pestle can be used for making pesto, pastes, guacamole and more.
Mortar and pestles are advantageous as the bowl is typically deep to prevent waste and ensure that all of the ingredients are fully combined together. These bowls can get so large that multiple people could be working at the same time to mix a dish together! The mortar and pestle can be dated back to appropriately 35000 BC in Southwest Asia. Today, mortar and pestles can be found made in marble and granite which are long-lasting and nonporous. They have a hard base and smooth inside of the bowl which prevents cracking or breaking. The styles of mortal and pestles can range anywhere from wood, glass, cast iron, ceramic, stoneware and suribachi-style. This is a style seen in Japan, there are angles and ridges in the bowl to assist with grinding.
It’s no denying the mortar and pestle still has its importance and use today. Sometimes the best things in life are vintage and require you to use your hands! Below is the perfect pesto pasta recipe. Give it a try and make your pesto with a mortar and pestle.
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
For the vegetables:
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 bell pepper, chopped
10 ounces cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 zucchini, sliced in half moons
1 Tablespoon olive oil
For the pesto:
2 cups packed fresh basil/spinach
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast or Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces of pasta
Vegan or dairy Parmesan cheese
- Heat olive oil and sauté veggies. Add the garlic and cook for the last 30 seconds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Make the vegan pesto. Place the basil, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast (or Parmesan), and salt into the base of a mortar. Grind ingredients with the pestle until mostly smashed, then drizzle in the olive oil until a chunky pesto forms. (You can also do this step in a food processor or blender, if you want.)
- Season the pesto to taste, adding more salt as desired.
- Make the pasta. Heat a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, drain, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water.
- Toss the pasta in the pesto sauce and cooked veggies.
- Serve sprinkled with vegan or dairy Parmesan on top.
For more delicious vegetarian meal ideas, don't miss our Vegetarian Boot Camp coming up on Saturday, June 18 at 10am at Lincoln Square. Even if you aren't vegetarian, you'll enjoy learning more meatless meals like:
- Roasted Corn and Coconut Chowder
- Black-Eyed Pea and Mushroom Burgers with Arugula Pesto
- Roasted Red Pepper Falafel with Char-Grilled Baba Ganoush
- Roasted Beet Gnocchi with Wilted Beet Greens and Goat Cheese Cream Sauce
- Kimchi-Sesame Rice Bowls with Fried Egg