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Classic Pesto or Basil Pesto?
This could be called “Classic Pesto”. I’m pretty sure Basil Pesto is the classic combination of ingredients to make this bright and delicious addition to your repertoire of sauces. If your garden is anything like mine, basil is abundant this time of year. I pinch off my basil plants throughout the summer, using the leaves in salads and veggies and pasta dishes.
It’s prime basil time right now
So now, I have some beautiful, compact plants with lots of bright green leaves. To make basil, you want to strip off and use just the leaves. If you’re in a warmer climate than Upstate NY, you still have time to harvest more basil. Take a little care to leave nice stems and leaf junctions for additional growth. Our growing time is just about up here though, so it’s time to capture a little taste of summer, to enjoy all winter long.
You can save fresh basil taste without making pesto too
Just throwing this in here too: when I feel like I’ve made enough pesto to last the winter [more about that in a minute], I have another trick up my sleeve. I fill my food processor with fresh basil, add a few tablespoons of olive oil, and whirl them together until I have a smooth paste. Then, I drop teaspoonsful on a parchment-lined sheet pan and pop the pan in the freezer. When the little blobs of basil are frozen solid, I bag them up and keep them in the freezer for winter cooking. Crazy enough, sometimes I just want basil, not pesto, to add to a soup, stew, or sauce, so those little blobs come in handy. They taste a lot better to me than dried basil does.
But today, we’re all about the pesto
- 2 cups packed cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
- 3 medium cloves garlic lightly chopped
- 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts [see notes]
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese [see notes]
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Make sure to remove the stems from the basil and parsley, and wash well – I use my salad spinner to get the herbs good and dry.
- Pulse the garlic and pine nuts in your food processor for a minute or so - you want them beginning to get broken up and blended.
- Add the basil and parsley, and process at medium speed for a minute or two.
- With the processor still running, stream in the oil through the fill tube, and leave running until the mixture is pretty much uniform and well blended – another minute or so.
- Add the cheese and pulse a few times to combine.
- Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed – the amount of salt will depend on the saltiness of the cheese, the pepper on personal taste.
Keep that summer Basil Pesto flavor all winter
Finally, here’s one of my personal favorite things about pesto [well, other than eating it]: You can freeze it! As I described above, you can freeze basil and pesto with just about zero loss of flavor. It tastes pretty much like freshly made, even after months in the freezer. I line a small sheet pan with parchment paper and scoop pesto in sizes I think I’ll need [this set of scoops gives you different choices] for recipes later on. Pop that in the freezer for about 8 hours, or even overnight. Then wrap each one in a small piece of plastic wrap. The plastic wrap will prevent freezer burn. Store the wrapped blobs of pesto in a ziplock, in the freezer.
To use, remove a blob from the bag, place it in a small bowl, and let it come to room temperature. Don’t microwave to thaw* because it will not be good – the cheese will melt and the whole thing will separate. You can make an excellent and super easy meal just by combining the melted pesto with hot, cooked pasta. For a little more substance, maybe add some cooked veggies and sauteed chicken breast.
*if you forgot to thaw the pesto ahead of time, you can speed that up by putting the pesto in a smaller ziplock, sealing it up, and floating it in a bowl of warm water.