Here we have Summer in a jar. This recipe uses a lot less olive oil than most, and that’s just because I like the basil to do the talking, not anything else.. I’ve been making pesto for many years, and this recipe has changed, and gotten easier, with time. I find it’s not necessary to use Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and also not necessary to use the ultra-expensive pine nuts if you’d rather not. After using walnuts for eons, I changed to pumpkin seeds because so many of our friends & family have nut allergies, and didn’t want them to miss out on this sauce that finds it’s way into everything from appetizers to pasta. I really like the pumpkin seed flavor better than anything. Such is life – just keep experimenting!
Growing your own basil this year? Good for you!! If you haven’t ventured into basil growing yet, please put a note in your head to try next year. It’s so simple to grow I can even do it, and that’s saying a lot. For years I grew basil in pots on the deck, but last year Dick took over the reins and planted the seeds directly into the ground. Holy cow – basil was coming out of our ears, so why not make pesto? Let’s go! First you’ll need basil. Grab some out of your garden, or you can also find beautiful bunches at local farm stands or farmer’s markets.
You can make a little or a lot, all depending on how much basil you have access to. I make a ton, which stays beautiful all winter long in the freezer, and is particularly good on those dreary cold days when you never think summer will appear again. Here’s how it works: Put about 3 cups of loosely packed basil leaves in the food processor, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt , lemon juice, parmesan cheese and the garlic and pumpkin seeds. Pulse this mixture until it’s pretty fine. Then slowly drizzle in the olive oil while your machine is still running until you have a beautiful, slightly chunky texture. Here is an important note: Please, Please do NOT leave out the lemon juice. If you do, enzymes in the basil, combined with the heat of the processor, will turn your pesto into a very dismal grayish green color. It will look so gross you won’t want to eat it. Speaking, again, from experience..
Now that your pesto is done, you must be starving, and in need of food in a hurry. Just put on a pot of boiling water, toss in some fusilli pasta, and when it’s done toss in about a cup of pesto. Be sure to add some grated parmesan cheese!
Time for a nice, big old bite…or several.
Oh. Yeah. So good on pasta, stirred into soups or grains, tossed with shrimp, rubbed all over chicken and topped with more parmesan before baking — just about everything…and a nice reminder of summer in the middle of winter when you just can’t stand gray skies one more second. Hope you enjoy!! Happy summer!! xoxoxo
- 3 cups packed fresh basil leaves and tender stems, washed
- ½ cup olive oil (doesn’t have to be Extra Virgin)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 heaping tablespoons pumpkin seeds (you can also use walnuts, pine nuts, any nut of your choice)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 pound fusilli pasta
- ½-1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Remove tough lower stems and bloomed flowers from basil.
- Soak in cold water for about 15 minutes, then remove from water and pat dry with thick towel.
- In a food processor, combine basil, garlic, lemon juice, nuts and salt.
- Begin processing and slowly drizzle in extra virgin olive oil until well blended.
- Place into jars and top with a drizzle of olive oil.
- Refrigerate or freeze until using.
- NOTE: If you are freezing pesto, do not add fresh garlic or cheese. Instead, add them after thawing and right before serving. Freezing dulls the flavor of fresh garlic.
- Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Place pasta in an oven proof dish (if baking) and toss in 1 cup of prepared pesto.
- You can top immediately with parmesan cheese and chow down, or bake in the oven until heated through. This dish can go either way - a cool side dish or a warm accompaniment to whatever suits your fancy.