Classic Basil Pesto
I don’t know about you, but it seems like this summer is flying by! Although I seem to say it every year, it seems that this summer is speeding by even more quickly than normal. My basil is already to the “out-of-control, please-make-me-into-pesto-soon-or-I’m-going-to-explode” stage and I think, man that’s early…until I look at the calendar. Nope, it’s the middle of July and perfectly normal for the basil to be nearly touching the sky!
Now, in case you’ve never planted fresh basil before, trust me when I say, it’s SUPER easy! I buy basil seeds, plant them in good potting soil toward the end of May, and with nothing more than sun and a little water every day or every other day, the basil is soon growing like crazy. I plant the seeds in pots so it’s easy to manage and keep some right outside my front door so it’s quick to grab when I’m cooking.
There are two things to keep in mind when growing
1. The more you “pick” the basil (by trimming off the stalks part-way down), the more it will grow!
2. Make sure to pick the basil before it starts to flower or it can turn bitter. That is not a problem for me – I use it often!
Besides making pesto, I love using basil for fresh caprese salads or dip, panzanella salads, fresh tomato pasta sauce, and adding whole or torn leaves to sandwiches and salads, just to name a few things I do. Really, the possibilities are endless. It adds pop of oh-so-fresh flavor that makes me happy every time I get a bite.
To preserve the fresh basil flavor for use throughout the year, I make batches and batches of pesto. Then I freeze it in ice cube trays, pop the pesto cubes out and into a plastic bag for storage and enjoy it for the next year. It is so simple, and for me, no store-bought pesto comes close to homemade. I toss homemade pesto with pasta, use it as a spread on sandwiches or on toasted baguette slices for an appetizer base, and add it to homemade balsamic vinaigrette for a flavorful twist. Much like fresh basil leaves, the possibilities are nearly endless with pesto.
There are many classic basil pesto recipes out there. My recipe is really not very different, except that I add one step to the process that I believe takes it up a notch. I roast the garlic before adding it to the pesto. Roasting the garlic mellows it out and allows the basil to shine through as the dominant flavor in the pesto, which is just how I like it!
I hope you like it too!
Classic Basil Pesto How-To Photos:
Here are my super-prolific basil plants!
Roast the garlic before making the pesto so it’s ready to go! (see directions for roasting garlic here)
A food processor making the pesto-making-process so quick and easy!
Spoon into ice cube trays and freeze for long-term storage. This makes it easy to use just as much pesto as you need.
After freezing the pesto cubes, pop them out of the ice cube trays and store in a plastic bag in an airtight container in the freezer.
Classic Basil Pesto
Yield: 1 3/4 cups (28 tablespoons)
Nutrition Info (per tablespoon): 71 cals, 2 g pro, 1 g carb, 7 g fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 1 g sat fat, 0 g fiber, 86 mg sodium
2/3 cup pine nuts
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 head garlic, roasted and separated into cloves (see directions here)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- In a food processor combine pine nuts, cheese, garlic cloves, salt, and pepper. Cover and process until nuts are finely chopped. Add basil. Cover and pulse until basil is finely chopped. While the processor is running, slowly drizzle oil through the feed tube in the lid and continue processing until mixture is well combined.
- Use immediately or transfer pesto to a bowl and cover the surface of the pesto with plastic wrap. Chill up to 24 hours. To freeze for longer storage, spoon pesto into ice cube trays (makes about 16 cubes). Cover and freeze for at least 6 hours or until pesto is very firm. Pop the pesto cubes out of the trays and place in a plastic bag. Store the bags of pesto in an airtight container in the freezer up to 1 year (until the next pesto-making-season comes around!).
Tip: Feel free to substitute other nuts for the pine nuts. Walnuts, almonds, or even pumpkin seeds (pepitas) work very well here!
Tip: If you don’t want to roast the garlic, you can use fresh garlic cloves instead. Use 4 to 5 cloves garlic per batch rather than a whole head of garlic.
Made it according to the recipe with just shy of the required 3 cups of fresh basil. The colour is spectacular and I managed to get 18 “ice cubes”-worth.
Saving these darlings in my freezer for a special occasion.
Thanks for your comment Suzanne! You will love having fresh pesto in the freezer to use through the winter for a burst of summer flavor! Happy cooking!