Basil Pesto

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Jennifer Pallian
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I successfully grew a lush, beautiful basil plant. I love it. I never forget to water it, and I say nice things to it while stroking it's leaves. Now before you go calling me crazy, just look at it! The lovin' obviously works.

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Recently, however, my plant friend went and sprouted FLOWERS. This triggered panic and the urgent need to harvest as much as I could in case the leaves should become tough and flavourless (as was the case with my cilantro and dill).

Enter pesto. It's easy-peasy - one of those toss-it-all-in-the-food-processor recipes.

Classic pesto uses pine nuts, not walnuts, but walnuts are what I had on hand, and this was an urgent situation. Take my lead and play with the recipe - any flavourful green leaf with a bite makes gorgeous pesto. Think arugula, watercress, other herbs like mint and parsley... or even spinach, for a milder version.

You can also modify the amount of garlic, cheese and oil - there is huge variety in pesto recipes. I start with the rule of threes - 3 cups of basil, 3 cloves of garlic, 1/3 cup nuts, 1/3 cup parmigiano reggiano, 1/3 cup oil - and adjust from there. Now that I said that, I count one-two-three-four cloves of garlic in my photo..

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There is no substitute for parmigiano reggiano (...not to be a food snob here but the snowy dry "parmesan" stuff in the green shaker just doesn't cut it). Authentic parmigiano reggiano is a bit on the pricey side, but a little goes a long way flavour-wise, so a chunk lasts a respectably long time. It's low moisture content means it is reluctant to host mold, too. When it's all gone, toss the rind into a simmering pot of soup - it adds lots of yummy flavour. No wasting this precious commodity.

To freeze leftover pesto, just dollop on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze. Transfer frozen pesto dollops to a freezer bag until ready to use. Thaw as needed in the microwave in 30 second increments.

Aren't frozen hunks of pesto pretty??

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Stir it into pasta, rice, couscous, cooked vegetables, scrambled eggs, popcorn, spread it on sandwiches... the list goes on!

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Basil Pesto

  • 3 cups basil

  • 3 cloves garlic

  • 1/3 cup grated parmigiano reggiano

  • 1/3 cup toasted walnuts

  • 1/3 cup olive oil

  • salt

Combine basil, garlic, parmigiano reggiano, and walnuts in food processor; pulse, stirring occasionally till all basil leaves are minced. With food processor running, drizzle in olive oil. Season with salt to taste.