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Fresh Basil Pesto

Christina Collins
Christina Collins

Sometimes you just can’t keep up with Basil’s speedy growth habits and you have to keep harvesting it it will go to seed before you know it. So what is one to do with all the summer’s sweet basil? The answer is Pesto!

At the end of each growing season I actually feel a loss when the Basil decides it has had enough producing and cashes it in for the year! But during the summer months we get to enjoy its prolific leaves in abundance. However, you need to keep an eye on your basil and keep it from going to seed. Once that happens, the leaves become bitter and are no longer good to use in recipes.

When harvesting basil, clip it right above the first set of four leaves and it will continue to produce strong, healthy leaves

The best part about making homemade Pesto is that it makes a lot and it freezes remarkably well, giving you the opportunity to enjoy its herbaceous flavor for months to come. I make sure to grow plenty of fresh genovese style basil so that I can make enough pesto to last through the winter.

Pesto is personal!

There are many, many pesto recipes out there which I originally found quite interesting because pesto only requires a handful of ingredients- how many variations could there be? Well, over time, I have learned that pesto is personal! You can take the exact same ingredients as someone else and the result can be astonishingly different. The freshness, the kind of basil, the quality, and the quantities all come together and produce a similar, yet notably different result. You have to make it yours, and make it just the way you like it.

I have tried many recipes over time and I continually come back to Ina Garten’s pesto recipe as my base, and then I tweak it to my taste.  I usually use less oil than the Contessa calls for, and occasionally I substitute the pignoli nuts for walnuts. The most important thing is to taste for seasoning and be sure to use the best quality ingredients that you can.

Feaster's Tips

Homemade Pesto makes a great gift for neighbors and friends!

Freeze Pesto in small jars or ice cube trays

Basil Pesto in Jars
  • When tasting, keep in mind that your flavors will marry after sitting together after being blended, and that parmesan cheese is naturally salty so keep that in mind when adjusting your seasonings.
  • After transferring the pesto to your storage containers of choice, top with a thin layer of olive oil, cover and store until ready to use. This will keep it from spoiling and keep the color bright green.

An important note about salt:

All salt is not created equal. The type of salt you cook with will absolutely impact your finished meal. If a recipe calls for 1 tbs kosher salt, which is what “better quality” recipes would assume you would be cooking with, and you use 1 tbs iodine salt then your final dish is likely to be way much more salty than the recipe intended. I only cook with Mortons Course Kosher Salt. Ever. That is why I can recommend it with confidence. Whatever you choose to cook with, be mindful and remember you can always put the salt in, but you can’t take the salt out!

The Recipe

Basil Pesto
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Total Time
15 mins
 

Use pesto as a sandwich spread, on pasta or toss with vegetables. Pesto has endless uses, freezes well in small portions and makes a great gift. 

Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • .5 cup pignoli or walnuts (It's very important to make sure to use fresh nuts)
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped fresh garlic (Amount depends on intensity of the garlic & your taste preference)
  • 5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed down lightly
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1.5 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup good quality, fresh grated parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Add the nuts and garlic into a food processor using the blade attachment. Process fro about 15 seconds.

  2. Add the basil, salt and pepper. 

  3. With the processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil through the feed tube and blend until the pesto is pureed well. 

  4. Add the parmesan and puree for about one minute.

  5. Use immediately or portion into air tight containers filling almost to the top. Add a thin layer of olive oil to the top to seal out any extra air and then secure with lid and freeze. 

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