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Basil is probably the one herb that really speaks summer to me. There is something about it that just takes me to my happy place. We have been enjoying the fresh leaves from the garden for several months is a variety of dishes. But as summer winds down, and I find that we still have copious amounts of the sacred summer plant left that can not be wasted. What to do? Well….. it’s pesto time!

Traditionally pesto is made using crushed garlic, pine nuts, a hard cheese, olive oil, and some basil. There are many variations of pesto, some using different types of nuts, while others replace the basil with other herbs or arugula. Mint is also sometimes added. The wonderful thing about making a pesto is that first of all it is very easy, and secondly you can easily customize it to your personal taste. This sauce also freezes quite well which will keep the flavor of summer alive well into the winter.

pesto_3pesto_5pesto_4pesto_6To prepare Basil Pesto:

Cooks note:  Feel free to customize this to your personal taste. You can use a different combination of nuts or omit the all together. You can also add lemon juice or red pepper flake if you like. This recipe yields about 2½ cups of pesto.

  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup pistachio nuts
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups good quality olive oil
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Start by picking the leaves off of the stems of the cut stems of basil. Discard any leaves that have apparent damage. Wash the leaves in cool water and place on a towel to dry.

Place the nut in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse 4 – 5 times or until finely chopped. Do not over process as you will make nut butter.

Rough chop the garlic and add pulsing 2 time to incorporate.

Add the basil, salt, and pepper. Add about a half of a cup of olive oil into the food processor and pulse. Add the cheese, and continue to stream in the remaining oil while pulsing until you have a thick bright green paste.

Storing your pesto:

Pesto can be stored in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for weeks. Float a small layer of olive oil over the top of the pesto to prevent it from turning brown.

Pesto is also easy to freeze. Many people fill ice-cube trays with the pesto and then transfer the frozen “portion-sized” cubes into a freezer bag.

I use my mini muffin pan to freeze my pesto. I found that often one cube was too small, and two was too much. After the cups are frozen, I wrap each on with cling wrap and then place the “pesto muffins” in a large freezer bag. Pesto will easily last 6 – 8 weeks in the freezer.

pesto_1Some ideas for using your pesto include of course as a sauce on pasta, as a base sauce for a pizza, a topping on a burger, or a spread in a sandwich.

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