Pesto. One of those things that just screams “Summer!!” It is exciting when my basil over-produces this time of year so I have an excuse make it, both for eating now and to go in the freezer when I need a dose of summer later in the year.
The main ingredient, basil, is my favorite summer herb. I use basil in so many things this time of year, including drinks (*side note: it is excellent in a refreshing gin and tonic, especially using Hendricks Gin…but I digress). It gets chopped and mixed with other herbs and garlic to flavor vegetables and fish and breads. But to me, the all-time best use is to make pesto.
Pesto is not just for pasta. Of course it is divine mixed into freshly made warm pasta, with some roasted chicken and diced fresh summer tomato thrown in…Mmmmm! But it can also be used as a topping for flat breads or in place of a pizza sauce (perhaps a simple pizza with some ricotta dolloped on top, then drizzled with a fine olive oil to finish). Mixing some into scrambled eggs kicks up your breakfast table; and pesto gives an added boost when tossed in with freshly steamed or sautéed vegetables such as green beans; or spread on corn on the cob in place of (or in addition to) butter. It can be mixed with mayonnaise and spread on sandwich bread. I’ve even topped grilled fish, such as salmon or branzini, with pesto.
It is not a difficult process to make pesto, but the ingredients can be a tad pricey, namely the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and pine nuts (though I found a great deal on these at Trader Joe’s). You will also need basil (of course!), garlic and a good olive oil. I have salt pictured, but really the cheese is salty enough that you generally do not need to add extra.
- 4 cups basil leaves, packed
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- salt, to taste [if needed]
If using a processor, place all ingredients except the olive oil into the machine. Process until smooth, then drizzle in olive oil. Taste and add salt if needed.
I like to do mine by hand, but it takes a bit longer. I finely mince all of the ingredients [except for the olive oil] separately, then mix them together and run my knife through it all a few times. Next, I drizzle in the olive oil. Taste then add salt if needed.
It is now ready to use in your favorite recipe calling for pesto!!