I always know it’s the end of summer when the basil stems get woody and the fight to keep them from flowering becomes futile. This signals PESTO TIME!
Pesto is my husband’s favorite food. It was a “right of passage” of sorts to learn the recipe from my mother-in-law, and now we have to make it every year. I would love to share with you a recipe, but I have to confess: I don’t measure anything. In general, and especially with things like pesto. It’s the reason I’m so bad about getting recipes up here. If you can make it through my ramblings, though, I think you’ll walk away with something better than a recipe. You will instead have a method.
First, I am rather unconventional with my pesto. I use basil, walnuts, garlic, olive oil and salt. Only. I don’t know why pine nuts are so expensive, but they certainly make it cost-prohibitive for the amount of basil we grow. Walnuts are a great alternative- nutty, soft, mild, sweet. I’m sure you could use another nut also (almonds, perhaps?) but you should try this one first. Secondly- I don’t add cheese to my pesto because I only make it in HUGE batches to freeze, and when frozen the cheese can get weird. There is just nothing better when you are in a winter stew/soup slump than pulling out that little bag of preserved summer and making pasta, paninis, pizza, etc. You can add your cheese then. Trust me.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (F). Spread the walnuts and heads of garlic out on a sheet pan. Check them at 10 minutes- they should be smelling great and LIGHTLY toasted. This step just cuts the bite of the garlic and sweetens up the walnuts.
- First, go chop down your basil
treesplants- preferably in the morning for best flavor. I find the best way to strip the leaves off is to hang it above the sink and pull the good leaves downward off the stems.
3. Wash and dry basil leaves. If you have a salad spinner, break it out now. It’ll make this a lot easier.4. Layer into the food processor in this order:
- Basil -usually one plant’s worth, or 1 full processor bowl
- Garlic – a whole head or so
- Splash of Olive Oil – don’t go overboard, you can add more while blending. You want just enough to let the pesto come together, more oil will be added when making a dish anyway.
- Salt -Generous pinch
- Walnuts- Again, use your judgement. I do a few handfuls. See pictures.
I have done this a lot, and I find this approach prevents over-blending.
5. Blend! I recommend using “Pulse” also to avoid over-blending. You want the pesto to just come together to look like the picture below. Have some saltines and a buddy on hand to do taste-tests. Adjust accordingly. Keep in mind, if you will be using Parmesan with it later, it will contribute quite a bit of salt to the flavor.
6. I freeze 1/3 cup at a time in freezer bags and pack at least one ice cube tray for use in smaller recipes. Enjoy!