To me, July means fresh herbs, whether it is from the farmer’s market, a friend’s garden or my own back yard. Each morning in anticipation, I walk through the garden beds with a basket and pruners in hand. And while I pick thyme, oregano, sage, chives, my favorite greets me with it’s large, bright green leaves. I am talking about basil! And not just any basil, but specifically, Genovese basil; the classic basil used in pesto.
If you love pesto, but have never made your own, you are missing out. Yes, I know that you can buy pesto in stores, usually in glass jars so it shows off the color, tempting you to pick it up and put it in your shopping basket. But folks, I am telling you that homemade pesto is so much more flavorful and pretty darn easy to make.
From my kitchen to yours, I am sharing my basil pesto base recipe. I call it a base, because I do not add cheese since it is destined for the freezer. Personally, I do not like the flavor of cheese after it has been frozen. Since I leave the cheese out, I can serve this to my vegan friends. I also do not add all of the olive oil that I normally would if making pesto to use immediately. This is done intentionally so the mixture will freeze well.
- 3 C. packed basil (leaves only) or about 6 oz.
- 3/4 C. roasted pine nuts (roast nuts at 425F for 5 1/2 – 6 minutes or until golden brown)
- 1 C. good quality olive oil
- 1 1/4 oz. fresh garlic (or 8 – 10 large cloves)
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until the mixture is smooth and it is a uniform color. Please note that this mixture will be thick. After the mixture is well combined, spoon into a tray to freeze. (I use the silicon 2-bite brownie trays sold at craft stores.) Ice cube trays will also work.
Freeze the pesto until solid (about 2 hours) and then remove from the tray and place into freezer bags or other container suitable for use in the freezer.
This recipes makes approximately 25 cubes (~ 5/8 oz. each).
Doesn’t this look wonderful even in the tray? The color is such a vibrant green and truly evokes the look of summer. Not only is this pesto visually appealing, but aroma is heady. Basil, garlic, and olive oil all vie for your attention.
When harvesting basil, select the larger upper leaves. Avoid leaves that are yellow or brown along the edges, all those leaves will negatively affect the flavor of the pesto. Instead, select only whole, bright green leaves for best results. To maximize the flavor, make the pesto the day you harvest.
This pesto is great stirred into pasta. I use approximately 3 cubes per pound of pasta. To finish pesto and pasta, I stir in 1 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese and 1/8 cup of olive oil. Season to taste.
Homemade pesto also makes a great sandwich spread. Stir in 1 pesto cube per 1 cup of mayonnaise. For easy mixing, allow the pesto to come to room temperature before using.
I also use this pesto when roasting vegetables. Bring 1 pesto cube to room temperature. Mix in 2 pounds of vegetables such as new potatoes, onions, carrots, or tomatoes and then roast in the oven until the vegetables are tender.
These little heavenly pesto cubes also enhance the flavor of my spaghetti sauce. To one quart of sauce, add 1 cube of pesto (allow to come to room temperature) and 1/8 cup of olive oil to a large pan over medium heat. Stir to combine. Serve over pasta. Yum!