Fresh Basil Pesto

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In the summertime, when the weather is fine, basil is everywhere and so sublime!  Oh wow, I made a rhyme!

I love fresh basil and use it for all kinds of summer fare including: my Bruschetta, Italian Harvest Soup, Asian Pasta Salad and Tuscan Chili, as well as pizza, Caprese salad, pesto, spaghetti sauce and so much more!  My favorite place to buy basil is Trader Joes since every summer, they stock some beautiful plants and sell them for only $3.99!  They also carry large plastic containers of basil (either organic or non) for the same price.

I also chop it up, put some in ice cube trays, cover with water or olive oil and freeze to use in soups during the long winter months.

Pesto originated in Genoa, the capital city of Liguria, Italy.  Traditionally, it was prepared in a marble mortar (like the one in my photo) with a pestle (a tool used for grinding).  This is the authentic way to make it but I prefer using a good old food processor.


Fresh Basil Pesto

  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup nuts (pine, almond or walnut)
  • 4 cups basil, stems removed and packed
  • ½ cup olive oil (extra virgin is most common)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese

Remove peel from garlic cloves by smashing them with the side of a large knife.  Place the garlic and nuts in a food processor.  Pulse until there are no large pieces of either remaining.  Add basil and pulse again until combined.  With the food processor running, pour olive oil in slowly through the top and pulse until incorporated.  Add salt and pepper through the top and give it one last pulse.  Remove blade and bowl from food processor; stir in grated parmesan cheese.  Serve with warm noodles on toasted baguette slices, drizzled on soups or just eat it with a spoon.  Kidding.  But not really, it’s that good.

For a more rustic pesto, chop basil, nuts and garlic by hand.  Add olive oil, salt/pepper and grated parmesan; stir to combine.

Or really have some fun using a mortar and pestle like the one in my photo. First, add the garlic and nuts and squish (a technical cooking term) until creamy; add the basil (washed and dried) with coarse salt/pepper and grind to a creamy consistency.  Then mix in the parmigiana or pecorino cheese and olive oil.

Root Notes
–  What’s at the root of this food?  Basil is loaded with vitamins including A, K, C, magnesium, iron, potassium and calcium.  There are many other health benefits of basil including cancer fighting phytochemicals, anti-aging properties, inflammation/swelling reduction and antioxidant and bacterial properties.  Who knew?  Sounds like we should eat more basil!
–  Pine nuts are the best in pesto recipes but they’re expensive. I use almonds or walnuts since I usually have them on hand. Or you can use ½ and ½  or mix all 3.  It all depends on what you have access to.  Costco has good prices on nuts, in fact better than grocery stores.
–  Extra virgin olive oil is a staple of homemade pesto. I use light olive oil since that’s what I usually have on hand.  I get it at Costco also and use it for all sorts of things…salad dressing, homemade mayonnaise, cooking (has a nice high smoke point – here’s a post I wrote on the best and safest oils to use when cooking)
–  If you’re running short on basil, throw in some spinach, arugula or parsley leaves to make up the difference in the 4 cup measurement. Spinach won’t really change the flavor but arugula and/or parsley will.
–  Add a little lemon zest or red pepper flakes for a nice variation.
Basil Health Benefits (Medical News Today)
History of Basil (Wikipedia)

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