Cary, NC — Right about now, my garden is bursting with fresh basil. That means it’s time to make my famous pesto!
Fresh Basil for Homemade Pesto
I planted four Genovese Basil plants and one Greek Basil plant back in May. With all the rain, sun and hot weather we have had in Cary this summer, they are doing fabulous.
I have already harvested twice and will cut them back again this week so that I have pesto to use in the fall or to give away to friends.
If you are like my family, we eat an enormous amount of pasta. With two athletic kids that have big appetites, carbs rule the day in this house. But we get tired of eating pasta with tomato sauce, and pesto offers a welcome flavor change. There’s nothing better than making it yourself and adding it to a steaming bowl of spaghetti or to your favorite pasta shape of choice. It is also excellent added to a grilled turkey panini or as a topping to a broiled salmon steak.
Recipe – Homemade Pesto
The ingredients are super simple, and the prep time takes all of about five minutes. No cooking is involved, either! If you don’t have a Cuisinart, a blender will do, or use our newest favorite kitchen gadget – the Magic Bullet.
Fresh basil leaves (about 4 cups) washed and towel dried
1/4 cup pine nuts (also called pinoli nuts). You can substitute walnuts.
1/2 grated Parmesan cheese
1-2 peeled garlic cloves
1 cup olive oil (grade of your choice)
Pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper
In a food processor or blender, chop the garlic cloves.
Add the nuts and chop fine.
Add the basil leaves, along with the cheese and the oil, and blend to a thick paste. If all the ingredients will not fit easily at first, add in batches. The leaves grind down and it is sometimes easier to continue adding a third of the ingredients at a time to accommodate your particular processor. Add additional oil if you think the paste is too thick.
When all the ingredients are blended to a smooth paste, add your salt and pepper and give the pesto a taste.
Spoon the pesto into clean 1/2 pint ball jars and top with a 1/4″ of oil to preserve. Pesto will keep a very long time on the cupboard shelf unopened or in the refrigerator. The topping of oil seals the top of the paste so that air does not spoil it.
When preparing pasta with pesto, cook your noodles as you usually would and drain. Pour all the pasta into a large serving bowl. Dollop at least 1/4 c of pesto paste onto the hot pasta.
Using two large serving forks, or pasta serving utensils, toss the paste through the noodles until evenly coated. Then serve your guests. We like to add chicken to a pesto pasta dish to add protein. You can add other ingredients like onions, peppers and sausage, too.
Recipe and photos by Lindsey Chester.