I almost forgot how delicious homemade pesto is especially when the basil comes from your own garden. This is a very good and simple recipe that you can do a lot of things with such as mixing into salads, soups or casseroles; blend with mayonnaise to spread on a panini; as an appetizer on toasted baguette slices or use in a sauce over pasta such as I did below.
- 4 to 5 cups fresh basil leaves, firmly packed
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (use the good stuff)
- 4 large cloves of garlic or to taste, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup pine nuts or walnuts or a combination of the two, toasted (see comment below)
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 5 tbsp. olive oil (more or less)
- 2 to 3 tbsp. parsley, minced (optional) because basil often darkens in pesto you can brighten its color by adding a little parsley
If you are making a bunch of pesto it is worth it to blanch the leaves in boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds, then plunging them into ice water. According to America’s Test Kitchen blanching inactivates the enzymes within the basil leaf that promote rapid oxidation, darkening its bright green color.
I like to toast my pine nuts in a dry skillet until they become fragrant. Combine all of the ingredients except for the oil in a food processor and process until finely chopped. I have an 11 cup food processor and it is perfect for this recipe. Drizzle in the olive oil with the machine running. If you want a thicker pesto, do not add so much oil; thinner pesto add more oil.
Recipe by cooking with aunt juju https://cookingwithauntjuju.com/2012/08/10/pesto/
You can cover the surface with saran wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to use it, or you can freeze it.
I chose to make it into a sauce over pasta. You can use any kind of pasta but this sauce adheres better to pasta like fusilli or ridged elbows. However, I decided to cook 1 pound of spaghetti following package directions; drain and save 1/2 to 1 cup of the pasta water. Place the spaghetti in a large bowl and add all of the pesto from above; add enough hot pasta water to give the pesto a creamy texture and mix well.
Comment: Pine nuts at Kroger’s were $28.99/lb. and on sale at Meijer’s for $17.99. It does pay to shop around!
You can make pesto many different ways; you can use spinach, different nuts, Romano or cream cheese as well as Parmesan cheese, a local restaurant even adds butter to their pesto. It does depend on what you want to do with it.
I like to freeze pesto in ice cube trays and then just pop out some when I need it. Once frozen place in freezer bags.
Canning is not recommended as pesto is too low in acid and then also usually contains olive oil and that is a no-no for canning.
Pesto does have a tendency to turn brown (taste is good but you lose that vibrant color of green). Some ideas I have collected over the years to help prevent browning are: l) add lemon juice to the pasta water or the pesto itself; 2) chill your olive oil before adding to the pesto; 3) add a pinch of a crushed vitamin C tablet to help keep the color bright; 4) add some spinach or parsley and 5) use right away or refrigerate or freeze. If you refrigerate or freeze basil put it in a container, place a piece of saran wrap right on top of it and cover tightly with a lid. You can float a thin layer of oil on top as well.
Another way to keep pesto green (9-25-13) is to plunge the whole basil leaves into a saucepan with boiling water for 1 minute to set the color. Drain and rinse under cold water, then pat dry with paper towels.
See also my recipe Weight Watcher’s Pesto Two Ways.