Since tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, we’ll go green for this week’s recipe. Pesto was one of those dishes that I had enjoyed eating but never thought to make myself. Several years ago, before I moved to my present home, a good friend taught me how to make pesto using basil grown in my garden. I haven’t bought another drop since. Sure, we all know that pesto is great when combined with hot pasta but that’s only part of the story. Pesto-dressed pasta can, also, be served at room temperature and, if chilled, the addition of a few ingredients will make a great pasta salad. Moving beyond pasta, I’ll use a couple of tablespoons of pesto to flavor soups, sauces, in sandwiches, and in meat marinades. When roasting a chicken or game hen, a little pesto between the bird’s flesh and skin results in a very flavorful main course. The fact is that pesto isn’t just for pasta anymore.
As easy as pesto is to prepare, there are a few things to remember. First off, be sure to use only fresh ingredients. This is not the time to use dried basil or powdered garlic. Although I use a food processor to make my pesto, a high-speed blender may be used, as well. No matter which appliance you use, do not over-process the basil. If you do, your basil will darken considerably. Lastly, pesto can be stored in the fridge for up to one week and frozen for much longer. If you choose to freeze your pesto, however, do not add any cheese to it because it will not thaw properly. Instead, make your pesto without the cheese, freeze it, and after you thaw it, mix the pesto into your pasta, adding cheese as you do. And if you are going to freeze it, consider putting your pesto into an ice-cube tray. Once frozen, remove the cubes, place them in a bag, and store the bag in the freezer. Doing so will ensure that you’ll defrost only what you need.
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total time: approx. 10 minutes
- 2 cups basil leaves, about 2 oz
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2 – 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- pepper to taste
- To your food processor or blender, add the pine nuts and garlic. Process about 20 seconds to chop the ingredients.
- Add the basil, salt, and pepper and pulse for a few seconds, about 3 or 4 times. This should give the basil a rough chop.
- Start the processor and pour the olive oil through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream. Stop the processor about 5 seconds after all the oil has been added.
- At this point, the pesto may be frozen for later use (see above).
- If you are not going to freeze the pesto, add the grated cheese and process just long enough to combine the ingredients.
- Pesto is now ready and may be served over your favorite pasta.
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There are far too many variations to serving pesto for listing here. I mentioned a few in the introduction above and that was by no means a complete list. Pictured here is a dish of farfalle with chopped asparagus spears and marinated artichoke hearts, all of which has been dressed in pesto. I served it warm but I could have easily added some halved cherry tomatoes, a little chopped onion and maybe some chopped olives, stuck it in the fridge to chill, and served it as a pasta salad. As you can see, the possibilities are endless.
The amount of oil I use in this recipe will vary depending upon how I intend to use the pesto. If I’m going to use the it right away, I’ll use what’s indicated in the recipe above. If I’m going to make a chilled pasta salad, I may add a little more oil to the dish. If I’m going to freeze the pesto, I’ll reduce the amount of oil, as well as skip the cheese, making more of a paste. When I eventually use it, I’ll defrost it and coat my pasta with olive oil before adding the pesto. You, too, may wish to adjust the amount of oil to correspond with your own likes and dislikes.
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