Basil Pesto

Basil is a great additiontoso many dishes that it soon became apparentto me that I needed access to it at all times. That’s how myherb garden got started, and it has proven to be well worth the time spent planting and watering. Even if you don’t have much space, nursing a small herb garden (you can even make one in a large planter) of your favorite go-to stapleswill save you time and money, and let’s face it – there’s no substitute for fresh herbs!

Let’s get back to that amazing basil. I love a good tomato and basil pasta sauce as well as a fresh tomato, mozzarella and basil caprese salad. But, my all time favorite basil creation ispesto.

While in today’s culinary world you can find many varieties of pesto – from sun dried tomato to spinach and walnut – the classic, original pesto made with basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts andparmigianareggiano is justirresistible.

Here are the ingredients you’llneed:First, take the garlic cloves and smash them with the flat side of your knife. This is an easy way to get the papery peel off of garlic cloves while also breaking down the garlic itself. It’salso agreat technique to use if you’rejust infusing garlic flavor into a sauce or oil. Cracking the garlic clove allows the flavor to seep into the sauce or oil, but keeps it in tact enough to easily fish it out before serving.
Add the garlic cloves to your food processor or blender. If you have a mortar and pestle, by all means go for the old school way and smash away.

Mix until the garlic is finely minced. Then add the pine nuts to the chopped garlic.Mix again. You want the garlic and pine nuts to be mostly broken down so that when you add the basil you don’t have to mix it that much. We don’t want the basil to be so bruised that it loses its great green color.Now its time for the basil.Remove all of the large stems from the basil leaves and firmly pack the leaves into the 1-cup measuring cup. For this recipe I used 4 cups of tightly packed basil. It made enough for two batches of pesto, so you can adjust the recipe accordingly.Add the basil to the garlic and pine nut mixture. You may have to mix it a little before you put all the basil in as the leaves will take up a lot of room before they are processed.

Addthe olive oil to the basil, garlic, and pine nuts.Blend just until everything comes together. If you need to add more oil, add a little at a time. The pesto shouldn’t be too thick, but it also shouldn’t be runny.At this point, I liketoadda little squeeze of lemon juice. This is less for taste and more about keeping the pesto nice and green. If you plan on using your pesto right away, you can skip this step.
The pesto is almost complete. As I said before, you don’t want it to be too thick or too runny. Your pesto should look like the picture below.The last ingredient is the parmigiana reggiano. Add the grated cheese and a little salt and pepper to the basil mixture.Be sure to not over-mix the basil and the cheese. Mix it just enough so that the cheese is incorporated into the basil mixture.It’s ready to serve! You can enjoy it mixed with a bowl of piping hot pasta or smeared inside a delicious sun dried tomato andmozzarella panini.

Pesto does great being frozen, so make a lot and split it into individual use containers or freeze in ice cube trays with lids to save for a later date.
Enjoy!

Sous Chef

Basil Pesto

4 cups basil leaves

3-4 garlic cloves

1/2 cup pine nuts

3/4 to 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

3/4 cup parmigiana reggiano

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 tsp lemon juice, optional

Directions:

Add the garlic cloves to your food processor or blender.Mix until the garlic is finely minced and then add the pine nuts and mix again. Remove all of the large stems from the basil leaves and firmly pack the leaves into the 1-cup measuring cup.

Add the basil to the garlic and pine nut mixture.Addthe olive oil to the basil, garlic, and pine nuts.Blend just until everything comes together. (If freezing for later use, add lemon juice). Mixthe grated cheese into the basil mixture.

Serve as you like.

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