Fresh basil is plentiful in many gardens and at farmers’ markets right now. It’s a good time to make a batch or two of basil pesto.
Basil pesto is so versatile. It can be used on pizzas, in pasta dishes, mixed with mayo for a sandwich spread, in soups, salads, in wraps, spread with butter over corn on the cob, as an ingredient in steamed mussels, and the list goes on. As any creative cook will attest, basil pesto is a good staple to have on hand.
If you have an abundance of basil growing in your herb garden, or otherwise at your disposal, making pesto is a quick, easy, simple way to process it for a multitude of uses. It takes very few ingredients but, fair warning, one key ingredient is very expensive – pine nuts. However, the recipe doesn’t take many, thankfully. I bought 1/4 cup to use in my recipe and it came to $2.65. Walnuts can be substituted for pine nuts.
One of the easiest ways to store pesto is to freeze it in ice cube trays.
Simply place a large piece of plastic wrap over the ice cube slots and fill each with the pesto. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for several hours. Remove from freezer and lift the plastic wrap with the frozen pesto cubes from the tray. Peel off the frozen pesto cubes and store them in a sealed container or plastic bag in the freezer. These are very handy because they can easily be popped into soup or quickly thawed for spreading on your favorite sandwich or wrap or used in any other dish in which you would normally use basil pesto. If you need more than a tablespoon or two of pesto at a time then, of course, you will want to freeze the pesto in larger containers.
2 cups gently packed fresh basil leaves (washed and dried)
¼ cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
½ cup olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt, to taste
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
My fresh basil is from Just A Little Farm in Bonshaw, PEI. Farmer Jessica Vos grows her herbs and vegetables naturally with no chemicals.
In food processor, mix together the basil leaves, pine nuts, and garlic.
Pulse until mixture is finely chopped into a paste.
With the food processor running, add about ⅓ of the olive oil in a steady, slow stream. Reserve remaining oil for drizzling over finished pesto.
Add the Parmesan cheese and pulse again.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Bottle the pesto and drizzle remaining olive oil over the pesto. Store pesto in refrigerator or freeze.
Yield: Apx. ¾ cup
Here are a couple of my favorite uses of basil pesto.
Corn on the Cob – Slather some butter and basil pesto on hot steamed peaches and cream corn.
We love our PEI mussels! A cube of basil pesto is a quick way to add some extra flavor to the steaming broth for mussels. Added to some onion, garlic, and white wine, the pesto deepens the flavour of the mussels.
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