Basil is so easy to grow at home, especially in the summer and fall. Put several basil plants in the ground to have enough leaves to make pesto.
Pesto is a versatile sauce. It’s the perfect dressing for pasta, but is equally delicious as a topping for bruschetta. As a garnish, it transforms a vegetable soup into a sublime meal.
Pesto is quite easy to make. The only equipment needed is a blender or food processor. Simply put a cup of fresh basil leaves (not too small or young, nor the larger older leaves) into the blender or food processor with a pinch of salt to taste. Process the leaves for a couple of seconds until the leaves are chopped. Add 5 tablespoons of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (parmesan) or a combination of Parmigiano and Pecorino cheese. To that, add 3 tablespoons of pine nuts, a couple of cloves of garlic and about one half cup of good extra virgin olive oil. Process until a smooth sauce is formed. If using a food processor, process the sauce by pouring the olive oil in the feed tube while the machine is running. This method allows the sauce to be processed to the exact consistency desired.
Pesto should be used right after it’s made since the sauce will quickly lose its bright green color and turn dark. To help preserve the green color if not used immediately, pour a bit of olive oil on top of the sauce in a bowl. The olive oil will help prevent the sauce from oxidizing and darkening.
Want to try something different?
- Replace the basil leaves with cilantro leaves and use pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds) in place of the pine nuts.
- Add a serrano or jalapeño chile to the remaining ingredients from the recipe above for a delicious cilantro pesto with a kick.
- Dress pasta or add to a bean salad for an unexpected treat.
- Make a roasted garlic pesto by roasting a head of garlic in a 400° oven for 40 minutes. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the roasted garlic from the cloves. Combine the garlic with 2 tablespoons of capers, a half a cup of parsley leaves, one-quarter cup of parmesan or pecorino cheese, and a half cup of olive oil. Process in a blender or food processor until the sauce is smooth.