Last September 22nd, right after I began my blog, I posted on pesto. I called the post summer pesto, which is a bit silly, because when else would you make pesto?!!
Pesto is such a huge deal in my house. Mostly because my husband could eat it on ice cream, practically. But for me as the cook of the two of us, it’s just so extremely versatile. This basil and garlic flavored emerald-colored paste can be added to soups, breads, meat or seafood, salad dressings, and so many other dishes.
The only thing is, you have to make it. I know you can buy prepared pesto, but it’s expensive and I think home made is better.
Now, I’m not going to talk about making pesto using herbs other than basil, and nuts other than pine nuts. So every one can just relax. (However, those “others” are fun, too!)
I’m talking about making traditional Genovese basil pesto that’s from the Ligurian region of Italy where basil grows in abundance. I’ve always heard that the best pesto is made only from the baby basil leaves, but I use the larger ones as well, as long as they’re not “leathery.” I will also de-stem the basil leaves, if necessary, like I do with larger, tougher spinach leaves.
The only other thing I do when I make huge amounts of pesto is not add cheese. Don’t panic. When I use pesto in a dish, I will add the cheese then. But omitting it when I make a large batch of pesto saves space. Plus, I’ve always heard that it freezes better without the cheese. Besides, when you’re making your dish, you can add as much Parmesan as you want. With pre-made pesto, you’re more limited.
So every summer I spend many different days when the basil plants are flourishing and make pesto. I didn’t even realize until I was in the freezer today that I’m down to five jars! That’s absolutely horrifying! I must get busy!!!
So here’s my recipe for basil pesto, when you have an abundance of basil leaves. There’s no exact recipe, and you’re welcome to alter it to your own tastes.
4 ounces of pine nuts
Approximately 10 ounces of good olive oil
2 heads garlic, peeled
Basil leaves – a giant arm full of branches, spiders removed
Firstly, place the pine nuts in a skillet over high heat. Shaking the pan as it heats up, brown or toast the pine nuts. This step isn’t in traditional pesto, but I prefer the flavor of toasted nuts, in pesto and otherwise.
Watch the skillet carefully – the pine nuts will toast before your eyes.
The toasting takes only about 2 minutes.
Then place the pine nuts in the larger size jar of a blender. Give them a few minutes to cool off, then add the olive oil and garlic cloves.
Blend until smooth. This step will assure that there will be no bits of garlic or nuts in your pesto.
Because once you start adding the basil leaves to the mixture, it will get more difficult to blend.
Then, add a blender full of basil leaves.
And blend the mixture to incorporate the leaves.
Repeat. Continue adding basil leaves and blending until the mixture gets nice and thick. Scrape down the sides as necessary with a rubber spatula. When the is ready, pour it into sterilized jars.
Cover and freeze. They will stay good for at least one year. Thaw in the refrigerator as necessary. The color of the pesto will darken a bit due to oxidation at the top, so if you want to prevent this, just pour a little oil on the top to completely cover the pesto. Then it will stay green and fresh.
Remember that this version of pesto is very condensed. You don’t need to use as much. All you do is add cheese.
And by the way. With the second batch of pine nuts, I made a pesto that included parsley and 4 fresh jalapenos. Seeds and all. Awesome!!!