One thing that grows down here in the hot dry summers, even when the rest of the garden has literally cooked to a crisp, is basil. And we love it. It keeps going and going and going…but I’m not complaining. Just keep picking and making pesto! I don’t actually use a recipe for pesto, I just add this and that until it looks right, but if you don’t cook like this, you might want to try this recipe. Just keep in mind that it can be modified a LOT and still be delicious!
Here is my method.
1. Pick a bucket full of basil and wash thoroughly. Then take a picture because it is pretty. If you are using spinach, you can use an amount equal to the amount of basil. I find that the spinach doesn’t really change the flavor of the pesto much, but it makes the pesto stay green better in the freezer as well as (obviously) increasing yield.
2. Gather up the rest of your supplies. You will need:
Nuts of some kind (Pine nuts are too expensive, so I use what I have. I’ve used walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc. You can also add in some sunflower or pumpkin seeds, though I use them sparingly.)
Fresh Baby Spinach (optional)
You will also need Parmesan cheese, but not yet
3. Roast Garlic and Toast Nuts
Cook the nuts in a single layer until they just start to get crisp and golden, but be careful because it’s easy to overcook them.
Cut the tops off the garlic, just exposing the top of each clove. Then place in a baking pan and drizzle over the top with EVOO. Roast at 400-450 until golden and the cloves are beginning to pop out of the top. Pull out of oven and let cool. Then you should be able to just pop the cloves right out of the paper. Super easy.
4. Start throwing things in the food processor. I fill the bowl with spinach and basil, add some garlic cloves, lemon juice, salt and pepper and then start the machine. Pour EVOO into the food processor slowly until it all blends up evenly. When smooth, use a spatula to scrape the pesto into a big bowl.
5. Do this about a million more times. Keep adding batches to the big bowl. You don’t have to worry that every batch has the same amount of all the ingredients because once everything has gone through the blender, you want to stir it up and taste it.
6. Adjust seasoning. Add whatever you need to taste. The flavor will be strong because a little bit goes a long way. So it’s not a big deal if it tastes a little too salty or peppery.
7. Run it all through the food processor again. This will help make sure that everything is incorporated evenly and will hopefully make it nice and smooth.
8. Fill Jars. Or whatever freezer containers you are using. I LOVE tiny little four-ounce jelly jars for this. One tiny jar will actually make a lot of pasta! We love to add the pesto to other things: instead of mayo on grilled sandwiches, to flavor roasted meat or veggies, etc.
9. Label and Freeze. Make sure to include the date.
10. Use. When you are ready to use, make sure to add Parmesan cheese to taste. And if you are using it on pasta, reserve the starchy cooking water and add a cup to your pasta when tossing with the pesto and cheese. So yummy!