When basil is at its peak, the bunches are huge and plentiful. I scoop up tons and bring them home to make pesto; batch after batch. I freeze in one-cup portions, which is perfect for a pound of pasta.
Don’t limit yourself to pasta, though. Pesto is delicious over grilled chicken, just put a good dollop over each cutlet. I also like to use it in a caprese salad – instead of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, little dabs of pesto on the tomatoes and cheese is a fantastic variation.
Grill some eggplant rounds and stack with mozzarella, roasted red peppers and slather a little pesto on each layer.
Here’s some tips to making pesto. Young basil (thin stems) use both the stem and the leaves. Remove tough stems on mature basil. Pine nuts are the classic nut used in traditional pesto, but don’t hesitate to use walnuts or almonds. Be sure to toast your nuts to maximize flavor!
Keep nuts in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent spoilage. Use the lemon juice not only for flavor, but it also prevents the pesto from turning black when mixed with hot food.
See our Spaghetti with Shrimp in Spicy Pesto recipe here.
Head out to the garden or the local farmer’s market and bring home the basil!
Watch the Pesto Video Here:
- 4 cups fresh basil
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Garnish: quartered cherry tomatoes
- Place the basil, cheese, nuts, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor. Pulse to chop up the ingredients.
- Turn the processor to “on” and slowly pour the oil through the spout until an emulsion forms.
- Store in an airtight container with a piece of plastic on top of the pesto to keep the oxygen out.