Basil Pesto

In the summer, fresh basil is one of my favorite herbs, probably because it is so abundant and easy to grow in our area. Pesto from basil is so versatile, great with pasta, sandwiches, eggs, grilled meats, fish and vegetables, just to name a few things. When making pesto with basil from our garden, I will usually double, triple or increase the quantity even more, to have some for freezing while I am going to the trouble. See the Post of this site, “So much Basil!” to see recommendations for freezing and the way I pack it for future use.

Make certain your basil is washed and cleaned. I find that most of the basil from markets has been cleaned, but this is a step I always take when preparing basil from my own garden. You should also use fresh pine nuts, which can turn bitter if left in the pantry too long (freezing them will keep them fresher longer).

If you research basil pesto, you will find many different proportions of ingredients, where recipes are driven by preferences, so vary things to suit your own preferences. I like to toast the pine nuts and unpeeled garlic to bring out their flavors. I also prefer a bit more garlic than most, although it gets mellowed out a little with toasting. Oddly, I just remember the number “three” when making this pesto. It makes about a cup and half of sauce. The recipe can be doubled, which is about as large a quantity as I can mix in my food processor. If preparing this for freezing, I don’t mix the cheese into the sauce prior to freezing and only when ready for use after thawing in the future.

Basil will oxidize and turn a dark color after it is cut and even from some forms of handling. Even if I am only going to let the basil set for a few minutes, I will top the mixture of with a film of olive oil to help limit this oxidation (exposure to air) until I am ready to use it in a preparation or as a sauce.

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  • 1. Toast the pine nuts and garlic in a dry pan over medium heat for several minutes until the nuts pick up some color and are slightly fragrant. Carefully pour the toasted nuts into small bowl, holding the garlic back with a spoon or small spatula. Continue heating the garlic has some color and is beginning to be fragrant, another four to five minutes. Slide the garlic into a small bowl and allow it to cool.
  • 2. As the garlic is cooling, wash and dry the basil. Prune the leaves into a measuring glass until you have three cups packed.
  • 3. When the garlic is cool, peel each clove and place in the bowl of an food processer. Add the basil, pine nuts and olive oil. Process the mixture until it has a course texture that is uniform.
  • 4. If intending to freeze the mixture, in part or whole, remove and prepare for freezing (Add cheese at the future time of use after thawing).
  • 5. If intending to utilize immediately, mix the processed basil with the grated cheese. Taste and season the mixture with salt and pepper as needed. Pour a thin layer of olive oil over the mixture to keep it from oxidizing. The mixture will keep for several hours in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap, prior to further preparation.