Basil Pesto

Each spring I help my mom plant basil seeds so that I can harvest enough basil to make many batches of pesto during the summer. This is an easy and quick way to make a gourmet dish to share with friends or just eat by yourself. Originally the recipe is from Epicurious, but I like my alterations better.

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Start with fresh basil leaves. Each batch needs 4 packed cups. I grow my own basil plants and am able to make 3 batches of pesto at a time when my plants are full grown and healthy. I usually grow about 10 plants from seed each year. I should also mention that adding in extras like rosemary, mint or parsley, give the pesto different flavors. I usually slightly decrease the amount of basil leaves depending on how much of the other things I add. They can all be blanched as well to break down their woody structure.

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One of the interesting things about this recipe is the blanching of the basil leaves. This stops the cells from decomposing and makes the pesto very smooth and also helps it stay a fresh green color. I boil about half of a pot of water and start blanching. Because basil leaves are slightly fragile, they only need to be in the water for about 10 seconds. I use a slotted spoon to gather the leaves and transfer to my bowl of ice water.

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The pyrex bowl is my ice bowl. The basil leaves go straight into the ice bath and can sit until all four cups have been blanched. At that point I strain them in my colander and let them drip while I prepare the other ingredients. P1050699

Here is the basil after it has drip dried.

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Pine nuts really make this recipe.  Walnuts also work well if toasted in the oven for about 7-9 min on a low temperature. If toasting pine nuts, use a frying pan but don’t walk away, it goes FAST!

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Cheese also makes this recipe delicious. I have found that combining the toasted pine nuts, parmesan cheese and garlic (I LOVE garlic so I add lots) makes it really easy on the food processor once the basil is added.

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This is what it looks like after being pulverized. I should mention that my mom has THE BEST mini food processor ever. It is a Sunbeam Oskar brand and holds about 2 cups, the perfect fit for this pesto recipe. I highly recommend getting a small food processor if you don’t already have one.

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After mixing the garlic, pine nuts and cheese, I add the 1/4 cup of olive oil. The original recipe calls for 3 extra Tbls, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Puree this in with the nut/cheese/garlic mixture.

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Now it’s time to add the blanched basil leaves (and anything else you decided to throw in). I usually add about half of the basil, blend it up and then add the rest. It gives the food processor a little less work to do.

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After roughly mixing it, your pesto should look like this. I like to use a rubber scraper, to get the unmixed ingredients down from the sides of the processor.  I also get anything out of the lid. And then I keep pureeing it.

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When fully mixed, this is what it should look like. Now comes my favorite part: the taste test! At this point some salt and pepper are needed to bring out the flavors. I also sometimes add garlic depending on how it tastes.

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Normally I add about 1/2 tsp of salt and a good dusting of ground pepper.

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I remix, retaste, adjust if necessary and then package it for the freezer. I use small tupperware containers that used to be sippy cups from when my sister and I were younger. For this application I use the flat lids that they came with.

Pesto freezes well and can be stored for up to a year. None of my batches have lasted longer than this though, so I can’t be sure. ENJOY!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves, washed well (Packed does not mean squishing them all in to fit. It means grabbing a bunch and stuffing it in a measuring cup to see if, with airspace, it is a around a cup.)
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts, toasted until golden
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 1 1/2 ounces)
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Have ready a bowl of ice and cold water. In a saucepan of boiling water blanch basil, a handful at a time, 2-10 seconds, transferring with a slotted spoon to bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain basil in a sieve and pat dry.
  2. In a food processor puree garlic, pine nuts and cheese.
  3. Add olive oil and puree.
  4. Add blanched basil and puree.
  5. Taste test!! Add salt and pepper and more garlic if needed.
  6. Package for the fridge or freezer.

ENJOY!

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