Homemade Basil Pesto
I simply cannot resist a fresh basil bunch. Every time I’m browsing through the fruits and vegetables in the grocery store and I see super fresh and green basil, I grab it. As soon I smell this herb, all I can think of are the wonders I could make with it: pesto, bruschetta, pizzas, tomato sauce, soups, salad, desserts, cocktails…I can even make some herb butter or infused oils! God, there is nothing like cooking with fresh herbs… (I wish my mother-in-law would succumb to my pleas and plant some herbs in her beautiful garden, including a huge basil plant!!! Pretty pleaseeeee!)
However, I learned the hard way that they don’t last long in the fridge… After a couple of days, they are dark and ugly and they go straight to the trash. Because of that, I got a small basil plant that now lives in my kitchen window and from where I usually grab leaves when I need a small amount. But somehow I still cannot resist the fresh bunch when I see it in the store. So I got into the habit of making Basil Pesto sauce and freezing it in ice cubes. And every time I need some pesto sauce, I just take one or two cubes, defrost it and add it to my grilled chicken, my pasta, my sandwiches… you name it! I swear to you that sometimes I even eat it by the spoonful. (Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone!)
I’ll tell you one thing though: don’t buy the store version of pesto sauce. It simply isn’t the same… And c’mon, wouldn’t you wanna know what’s in your pesto? Or wouldn’t you wanna control the consistency of your pesto? (I, for example, like my pesto more on the chunky/thick side… I find that the store-bought version is usually thinner/runnier.) It is so easy to make that you have no excuses to buy it ready. Or maybe I’ll give you a free pass if basil is out of season… I haven’t decided yet! You can still make pesto with spinach or arugula or parsley or sun-dried tomatoes… Got my point? But I’ll think about it! :-)
This week I actually bought some basil because I didn’t have any in the freezer and I’ve been on a mission to recreate this amazing caprese sandwich I buy from a deli next to one of the theaters I work at. I think I finally nailed it and I promise I’ll be sharing this wonder with you very soon! All the other ingredients I had at home: pine nuts (as I never go through a whole container of pine nuts at a time), Parmesan cheese (I ALWAYS have some good Parmigiano Reggiano in my fridge), extra virgin olive oil (obviously!), lemon (more on that later), garlic, salt and pepper. Before you start organizing a riot because I mentioned “lemon”, I’m going to go ahead and state that this is not a traditional pesto recipe, as there is no lemon in the traditional version. Meaning, your Italian grandmother (real or imaginary) would probably kill you if she saw you putting lemon in pesto sauce. However, I like adding lemon because it makes it extra fresh and I think the lemon awakens all the other flavors.
Also, before my Italian cousin comes here and writes some Italian curse words in the comments below, I’m going to say that Italians are really into making pesto using a pestle and mortar and they will say that you are cheating if you use a food processor, as he told me once before. Curse me as much as you want, my food processor is my best friend in the kitchen. “He” is the extension of my hands, only way faster and more efficient! lol I have a 13 Cup Kitchen Aid Food Processor that I love and by now you know I’m obsessed with it, as I mention it in almost every post! :-P
Anyway, all this pesto talk made me hungry! So I’m going to cook some pasta and toss it with some leftover pesto sauce. Then I’m going to grate a loooot of Parmigiano Reggiano on top of it! Oh, and I’m probably going to open a good bottle of wine. And voila: fancy weeknight dinner in less than 30 minutes. (My husband deserves it!!! He cleaned the apartment today!)
Homemade Basil Pesto
- 1 bunch of fresh basil, about 3.5 cups basil leaves
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup of pine nuts, toasted
- 1 Tbsp of lemon zest, optional
- 1 Tbsp of lemon juice, optional
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1 cup extra virgin Olive Oil
- Kosher salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- Rinse the dirt of the basil leaves and let it air dry while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Toast the pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat.
- Add the garlic to the food processor and pulse it until chopped.
- Add the rest of the ingredients, except the olive oil, and pulse it to the desired consistency.
- With the food processor running on low, slowly add the olive oil. You may add more or less depending on how thick/runny you like your pesto sauce.
- Taste and adjust seasoning.
- You can substitute the pine nuts for walnuts or even pistachios!