I love pesto. I’ve had a few simple variations and I love those too. Basil + garlic + nuts + cheese + oil is such a winner that I haven’t strayed very far from the classic, but I would probably also be very happy with other versions.
Lucky for me I was walking with my mom a few weeks ago and just when we were going back up the driveway her neighbor said she was cutting back her basil plants. “Would you like some?”, she asked us. Before mom had a chance to speak I was through the garden gate.
An armload of aromatic basil and a few heads of garlic later and I knew a batch of pesto was in the making. I’ve since polished off that first batch and made a second one today because I enjoyed the first so much.
Pesto is classically made with fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan or Romano cheese, garlic, olive oil and salt. Some people like and use more garlic. I didn’t have enough pine nuts so added some toasted, slivered almonds to this batch. I’ve seen it with lots of oil and less of everything else, but I prefer a thick pesto with lots of texture and lots of all the goodies that make it so delicious. A colleague mentioned a recipe her brother had made with plenty of heavy cream. Sounds lovely and very decadent. Here is my recipe.
1/2 cup pine nuts – (you can substitute almonds, walnuts or other nuts for all or part of the pine nuts)
1 to 2 cloves garlic – one good sized clove is plenty for my taste buds
2 to 3 packed cups basil leaves – basil in the store and farmer’s market comes in all different size bunches and to make a batch of pesto you will probably need 2 or 3 bunches. My first batch probably had 4 cups of leaves.
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup olive oil
salt to taste (the saltiness of the cheese and your own personal preference will determine how much salt you add – taste first and add less than you think to start – you can always add more later but it is difficult to fix if you put in too much in the beginning)* see note further down
I don’t always take the time to toast the nuts but it does add a nice layer of flavor. The last batch I made was with already toasted almonds. Toast nuts in a dry pan on medium heat, watching carefully and stirring often to keep from scorching. They go quickly from not quite toasted to burnt, so keep a careful watch.
Put nuts and peeled garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade and process until the nuts and garlic are finely chopped.
Add basil and pulse until the leaves are finely chopped and mixed with the nuts and garlic.
Add cheese and pulse to combine.
With processor running, add oil in a steady stream, stopping to scrape down sides of processor bowl a few times as needed.
Taste and if desired add salt and pulse to combine.
Note about salt: I made a batch of pesto recently and put salt in with the nuts in the beginning. Not a great idea. The particular brand of Parmesan cheese I had was very salty and when I took a taste of the finished pesto it was extremely salty! I didn’t have any more basil but I did have some fresh parsley in the fridge, and more nuts in the cupboard. I added parsley to the food processor along with another quarter cup of nuts and the results were really wonderful. It was still on the salty side but it is a sauce that I use often but with a light hand. This “rescued” batch was really good and was still bursting with flavor. I couldn’t detect the parsley and I didn’t have to throw out the yummy sauce I’d made.
The resulting Pesto Sauce should be pureed but with some texture to it. I understand it freezes well but can’t advise you on that as I just scrape it into a jar and keep it in the fridge, stirring it into pasta, topping pasta and pizza with it and dressing salads and other vegetables with pesto alone, stirred into mayo or hummus or shaking it in a jar with lemon juice and olive oil.
One of summers prodigious growers is zucchini. I sliced several slender squash from the Farmer’s Market thin using a mandoline slicer from Benriner, than sauteed them and topped the resulting ribbons with fresh pesto. Delicious.
Thank you for coming by. Thanks for the ongoing interest and support – this is my 200th blog post!