You may remember that on my meal plan for week one I have a slot for “pasta and sauce” – this is one of the areas where I can get a little creative and allows for many combinations – ravioli and pesto, pasta puttanesca, marinara and spaghetti, etc. You get the idea. So far, I’ve shared my “fettucini alfredo” and “shrimp scampi” recipes, here is another installment – Pesto.
My sister generously bought me a basil plant – it’s been producing lots of basil, and I’ve been reaping the benefits of fresh basil – on pizza, bruschetta, in my sauces and dishes. It’s so good! I figure that if you also have basil in your garden, you might appreciate inspiration to use it up – Pesto definitely will use a good amount.
I remember being introduced to Pesto, and it was rather late in my Italian cullinary exploration. I remember thinking, “where have you been and why haven’t I known about you sooner?” I asked my host for the recipe, and set out to make my own Pesto. I found that I had a recipe in what was my go-to cook book, “Jane Broady’s Good Food Book”, and I was ready to go.
Pesto is SO easy to make – if you have a food processor. If you do not, it’a bit more challenging with all the chopping you need to do.o. You can use a blender in a pinch, but it will take some experimenting on how to get the ingredients to the right consistency.
I usually have all the ingredients for Pesto EXCEPT the basil – that you have to get fresh, and it’s not a year round product. But, the Parmesan (or Romano) cheese, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pine nuts are always in my pantry. Pine nuts are expensive, and you don’t use a lot in Pesto, so I freeze them and use them when I need it. Some Pesto recipes have you using walnuts – you can, but it’s a very different taste.
I’m including a recipe for Pesto, but like any Italian sauce, the “recipe” is to taste – you may want less garlic, or to add a little lemon juice – there is no wrong way to make it, but I’m including the recipe for “classic” Pesto.
Pesto is so easy to make, and it’s so versatile. Use straight on pasta, dollop it on your minestrone soup, add it to your tomato sauce instead of the basil, spread it on crostini as an appetizer or as a pizza topping – the possibilities are endless.
I had to include this disclaimer – Pesto is not cheap to make. A bunch of basil will run you $3 in the store, pine nuts are from $10-16 a pound, and while you don’t need a lot, you can’t always find them in bulk. When you add the cheese and olive oil to the mix, your batch will definitely cost you over $4 (unless you grow your own basil). Of course home-made pesto is always best, but if you can’t get fresh basil, I have found that the Buitoni brand, for $4 for 7oz is a VERY good substitute. I’ve tried other store and bottle brands, and Buitoni is the only one that comes close to home made and contains no preservatives. I keep a container in my freezer to extend the shelf life.
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 c olive oil
- 2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 c pine nuts
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- In a blender of food processor, combine the garlic, salt, and oil. Process the ingredients until they are smooth.
- Add the basil and pine nuts and blend the mixture until it is smooth, scraping sides as necessary.
- Stir in the Parmesan cheese.
- If you want a thinner sauce or have difficulty processing it, you can add some chicken or vegetable broth in step 2.
- Refrigerate for up to a week, freeze for up to six month.