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.