Last year the pesto I made for the freezer didn’t make it past December. This year I promised myself I wouldn’t run out again, so I planted boatloads of basil. The picture to the right is just one of the rows I planted, and I’m still wondering if I planted enough. Over the last couple of weeks my kitchen has smelled divine as I’ve made pounds and pounds of the heavenly condiment.
I’m constantly amazed at the passions invoked by the mere mention of pesto. Just yesterday I spoke to a wife who told me she can get her husband to do just about anything if she makes him pesto. I have a friend who told me the cucumber wilt that destroyed my entire crop of cucumber vines in the last week is the payback I’m getting for all of the pesto I’ve been making! Harsh words spoken out of jealousy my dear friend!
I realize the interwebs doesn’t need another pesto recipe, but I’m going to add another one anyway. The proportions for pesto is an age old controversy, and I don’t want to step on any one’s toes. Ultimately, I think we should make food we enjoy, and that cooking is about preparing food to suit our individual tastes. This is the way I like my pesto, but you should change the proportions to suit your own taste. If you love garlic, throw in a few more cloves. If your bank account is larger than mine, feel free to double the quantity of pine nuts. To be honest, each batch of pesto I make is probably different. I tend to taste as I go, and then do things like throw in an extra handful or two of Parmesan or nuts. I should also mention that when basil becomes scarce, I make pesto from other herbs and nuts. In the early spring, I’m able to grow arugula weeks before anything else is available. It makes a wonderful peppery pesto combined with whatever nuts I happen to have on hand. Cilantro also makes a fantastic pesto. If pine nuts are beyond your pocketbook, use walnuts, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds. One of my favorite nuts to use is pistachios. In the late fall, one of my favorite pesto combinations is arugula, sage, and pumpkin seeds to be served over pumpkin ravioli.
12 ounces basil leaves (or my gargantuan stainless bowl filled loosely)
3 to 4 oz Parmesan cheese
4 to 6 garlic cloves
2 to 4 oz pine nuts
1 cup or more extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Rinse and dry basil. I use a Salad Spinner, and it makes quick work of cleaning and drying greens and herbs. It’s one of my must-have kitchen tools. Another tool I use on an almost daily basis is this Cuisinart food processor, which was a Christmas gift from my little sister.
Combine basil, cheese, garlic, and nuts in food processor. Turn on processor and slowly pour olive oil into mixture until the pesto reaches the desired consistency. I tend make my pesto on the thick side for storage. Later, while cooking, I will alter the consistency with more olive oil to suit the recipe I’m working with.
To store pesto for winter use, I freeze it into cubes in ice cube trays. Once frozen I transfer the cubes to dated and labeled freezer bags.