Over the weekend I harvested baskets and baskets of basil and joyfully made my second batch of pesto. This rich green, earthy, aromatic sauce is such a basic Italian staple to prepare some simple, yet absolutely delicious gnocchi, pasta, and polenta. But hey, do what I do, just lather a huge spoonful on top of a piece of toasted French or Italian bread, and that’s as good as it gets! Dollop some in a baked potato, add a layer in a panino, enhance a steak or piece of chicken with it on the side, use it to add to roasted cherry tomatoes . . . the yummy possibilities for using this summer-fresh green pesto is endless!
Plus pesto is so incredibly easy to make and freeze!
A plethora of recipes for pesto can be found everywhere; however, as a purist, I prepare my pesto in the most traditional manner with only fresh basil, high-quality pine nuts (pignoli), freshly ground Parmesan, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh garlic, and sea salt.
You can use either a mortar and pestle, which I prefer if time permits, or a food processor when time is scarce in a busy life (that would be crazy me!). Some purists believe that a food processor takes away some of the flavor and doesn’t allow the oils to release properly. I think that it’s really more about the ingredients than the process.
One thing that is critical to remember though, especially for garlic freaks such as myself: do not use more garlic than required because you use only fresh cloves of garlic in pesto and not powdered or flaked. Too much fresh garlic will overpower the delicate sweet flavor of the basil and make it taste bitter.
For the basil, Genovese is the variety of choice, but don’t worry if you don’t have that, it’s all good! But do make sure that the basil is dry or the water will cause the pesto to spoil much faster.
Finally, have more than enough olive oil on hand so that you can pour a layer of olive oil on top of the pesto to preserve it even better and prevent browning/freezer burn.
4 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and thoroughly dried (Genovese if possible)
2 – 3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted if preferred
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
extra olive oil to cover the top of the pesto
In either a food processor or with a mortar and pestle, blend/press the basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmigiano cheese into a paste-like consistency.
Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while the processor is still running.
Add the sea salt.
Blend thoroughly until a smooth consistency is achieved.
Top off your jar/container with a layer of extra-virgin olive oil to better preserve the pesto.
Pesto stays fresh in the refrigerator for one week in a covered container.
For freezing pesto, simply fill an ice cube tray with pesto and freeze until solid.
Once frozen solid, remove the cubes from the ice cube tray and wrap in plastic and return the cubes to the freezer.
Use these pesto cubes in future recipes at ANY time of the year!
You’ll be SO happy that you did this in the summer!