It’s (Still) Pesto Time!

If, like me, you have mounds and mounds of basil in your garden this time of year, it’s time to take advantage of this abundance and make lots of pesto. If you don’t happen to have ridiculous amounts of basil, I’m sure a friend with plenty would be grateful for your offer to help them get rid of some of theirs.

pesto

Basil-Arugula pesto

One of the things I love the most about pesto is that you can use your imagination and dream up many combinations and delicious pairings of greens, herbs and nuts beyond the classic favorite of Basil-pine nut, depending on what you have on hand in the fridge or in the garden. Some of my favorite combinations include Basil-Arugula (pictured above), Spinach-Walnut (below), Cilantro-Almond, and Kale-Cashew. In most recipes, it is best to toast the nuts first in order to impart an extra nutty, bold flavor that goes missing without this extra step. Let the nuts cool completely and take care not to burn them while toasting in the skillet (as I have many times before-oops). Some recipes call for first blanching the greens, which you can do, but I find the classic preparation to be perfectly delicious.

Below is my basic, go-to recipe for delicious pesto. Add most any combination of greens/herbs and nuts you like! You can omit the cheese if you are vegan.

Pesto

3-4 heaping cups of herbs and/or greens
1/2 clove of garlic (or more, but you don’t want the garlic to overpower the dish)
1/2 cup of good quality Parmegiano-reggiano cheese
1/4 cup of nuts
1/4 – 1/2 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (depending on how thinned out you like it)
Optional: Stir in about 1 Tsp of lemon zest and 1 Tbsp of juice at the end to brighten up the flavor
Crushed Red Pepper flakes to taste (also optional)
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

pesto

Spinach-Walnut pesto

Making pesto is very quick and easy with a food processor, but you can also use a mortar and pestle to grind the ingredients.

Place the first four ingredients in the food processor and pulse until well combined.
While slowly drizzling the oil into the top of the machine, process for about 1 minute until a thick paste forms.
Scrape down the sides, add lemon zest and juice if using, and add more olive oil to thin if necessary. Give it one more quick whirl to bring the sauce together.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

It takes about 10 minutes to make and will last in the fridge for about 3 days, or in the freezer for about 6 months. I like to freeze it in small containers for a quick and easy dinner option.

There are as many ways to serve and enjoy pesto as there are to prepare it. Serve it with your favorite pasta (ravioli, whole wheat spaghetti, penne, cavatappi, etc.), with potato or ricotta gnocchi, or use it as a sauce for fish or chicken, drizzled over steak, lentils, grilled vegetables, etc.