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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pesto 101

It's summertime, and in my family that means eating a lot of fresh basil pesto. Last summer I had my first Pesto 101 class here at The Antique Gardener. This summer I had to cancel it because I was sick...so I decided to share the recipe here. Enjoy!

I always start with a couple of large bunches of basil. I try to pick it and use it immediately. If you can't make your pesto right away just leave it in water to keep it fresh.

In my opinion the quickest and easiest way to make pesto is in the food processor. It can then be refrigerated or frozen. This recipe was adapted by me from the original recipe found in The Silver Palate cookbook (one of my favorites) by Russo & Lukin.

Basic Pesto

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, washed and patted dry

3-4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 cup olive oil, sometimes a little less

1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup fresh grated Romano cheese

salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1. Combine the basil and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. (I usually chop up the garlic a little, then add the basil and process together so the garlic is well minced)

2. Leave the motor running and add the olive oil in a slow steady stream. Sometimes I use a little less (3/4 cup) because I will either be adding more oil to pasta later or, if I am planning to freeze the pesto I add a little on top to keep the color fresh.

(Little hands are always a great help!)
3. Shut the processor off. Add the cheeses, a big pinch of salt and a liberal grinding of fresh black pepper. Process briefly to combine.

Makes two cups, enough to sauce two pounds of pasta.

I generally use one cup of fresh pesto right away and freeze one cup to use later. Having pesto in the freezer is so handy for a quick dinner!

I generally prefer using fresh pasta because it cooks so quickly. I also like to use a small Ziti pasta or tortellini which is great served cold.

After boiling for a few minutes I drain the pasta, add a little olive oil, stir in the pesto and dinner is ready! The kids love it - Emma had three helpings - and I love it because dinner was quick, fresh and healthy and there is a second meal waiting for me in the freezer!

Here are some other suggestions for using fresh pesto....

With Pasta - combine with any type of fresh or dried pasta. Serve plain or add fresh Parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, feta cheese or fresh cherry tomatoes on top.

Cold Pasta Salad - I generally use Ziti, Rigatoni or Tortellini pasta. Serve alone or add any combination of toasted pine nuts, sun dried tomatoes, olives, chunks of hard Italian salami, cherry tomatoes, peas or feta cheese.

Breakfast - whisk one tablespoon into 4 eggs as you scramble them. Top with Parmesan cheese and fresh tomatoes.

Panini's - Pesto is a great addition to any grilled sandwich. Spread on a slice of good quality bread, add mozzarella cheese and a thick slice of tomato. Grill until cheese melts. Other great additions include grilled onions or smoked turkey.

Add to mayonnaise to make a unique spread for sandwiches

Combine with garlic, Parmesan cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a refreshing summer salad dressing


I hope you get a chance to enjoy some fresh pesto this summer. Better yet, stock your freezer so you can have a little taste of summer all winter long!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe. I have a very good pesto recipe that I love but it includes pine nuts in the pesto and the price of pine nuts has skyrocketed. My poor basil is still struggling after the coolish start to summer here in Arnold, CA and I so wished to make huge batches to freeze for winter, homemade pesto is like a taste of summer during the snowy winter months.