The smell of pesto reminds me of summer. I made it recently and when a neighborhood dad came by to pick up his son he said “mmmm Pesto!” as he walked through my kitchen.
I don’t have a big yard but I do have a nice sized front porch and my containers of herbs grow there happily all summer long. And in milder fall weather I have fresh herbs all the way up to my Thanksgiving feast!
Pesto is a very fresh herb sauce created by blending (typically):
2 cups fresh basil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic (peeled)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (I confess, I don’t measure this exactly. I just add it until it looks like a sauce vs. a paste)
salt and pepper to taste
Add the pine nuts, cheese, and garlic to your food processor. Pulse until combined. Tear the fresh basil leaves as you add them into the food processor. Pulse until combined. With the food processor running drizzle in the olive oil. You can add more or less of it depending on how thick you want your pesto. I like mine on the saucier side so I drizzle until it looks more like a sauce and less like a paste. Add a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper (or more of both according to your taste).
Serve over warm pasta (I use thin spaghetti) with a pinch of butter and a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water. Toss with the pasta and enjoy. Sometimes I top with a lean protein like grilled chicken or shrimp – very nice!
Plays well with others: Pesto keeps in the fridge for at least 2 weeks in a mason jar topped with a drizzle of olive oil. Besides pasta, I use pesto as a topping for scrambled eggs, as a spread in a sandwich or on crostini. Freeze dollops of pesto in ice cube trays and plop in bowls of soup – cools it down and adds super seasoning.
A note on cooking pasta: Salt the boiling water before you add the pasta please! Like more salt then you are probably comfortable using. This makes a BIG difference in the taste of all of your pasta dishes. I prefer Barilla pasta and always cook as directed for al dente.
Add a pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes if you like it spicy.
Switch out the basil and pine nuts for flat leaf parsley and walnuts.
Toast the nuts first for a deeper and nuttier flavor in the pesto. I toast pine nuts in a skillet on the stove top, medium low heat. Watch closely and shake the pan occasionally please. When nuts are toasted you can smell them and they turn a light golden brown color. Walnuts (and other nuts) I place on a baking sheet in a 325 degree oven for 5-8 minutes. Keep an eye on them and shake the sheet to toss.
If you want a milder garlic flavor, boil the clove in the pasta water before adding it to the food processor.