Monday, September 26, 2011

Classic Basil Pesto

Every time it looks like I am finally finished with summer, something comes along to change my mind. In this case it was the last big beautiful bunches of fresh basil at the Smits Farms stand. A friend at work and I have been comparing market notes and wondering when the basil and the tomatoes were going to be gone, and the talk turned to pesto and other things you can do with basil once you have made enough sauce.

During the course of our conversation, we convinced ourselves that maybe we didn't have enough stashed away in the freezer to get us through the winter, so I agreed that if they were still available, I would get enough tomatoes and basil for each of us to make another batch of sauce. Well, there was, but I wasn't sure how much basil to get. Two each seemed like an awful lot, but one didn't seem like it would be enough for the sauce and pesto. So I bought two each, along with a bunch of Roma and Britain's Breakfast tomatoes for the sauce.

Which, as it turned out, was enough basil to make a big batch of the sauce plus two batches of pesto. One batch went into the freezer to accompany the batch I had made the week before; the other batch was delicious mixed with rotini, and made great work lunches for the rest of the week.

My sister discovered pesto years ago, and made it so often that it became one of her signature dishes. She made it so often, and with so many different combinations of nuts and herbs, that I never felt the need to tackle it myself. I did make it once when I moved to Chicago, and it was all right, but it was not worth the trouble to make again, I thought.

Until I had a big batch of basil and no idea how I was going to use it. I had pine nuts in the freezer, both Parmigiana Reggiano and Pecorino Romano in the refrigerator, and I always have extra virgin olive oil on hand, so it seemed inevitable. All I had to do was pull out the food processor and fill it up. And iIt was much easier and went much faster than I remember from the last time I made it. I divided it into two equal parts and froze it. I thought about freezing it in cubes, but I doubt I'll ever want that small of an amount, so I figured half a cup was a good amount for one use.

I wasn't sure whether or not I should freeze it with the cheese, but it always seemed like one step too many to have to add the cheese later. I looked around online and found enough people who said they have frozen it with the cheese without any problem, so I thought it was worth the risk. I will keep you posted on that issue.

I still have half a batch in the refrigerator. I plan to bake it with chicken for tonight's dinner.

I got this from my sister years ago, and I don't remember where she got it. But it is common enough and easily found all over the internet, so I am not going to worry that much about it.
Home Cookin Chapter: Appetizers, Spreads and Dips

Classic Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves
3-4 large cloves garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (walnuts)
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine basil, garlic, cheeses and nuts in food processor/blender. Process to mix. With machine running, slowly add the oil.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, and process to desired consistency. Let sit/stand 5 minutes before serving.

Toss with hot pasta and serve immediately, with additional pine nuts and parmesan.

Yield: 1 cup. Freezes well.

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

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