Basil pesto is good. We have used it on our grilled pizza, in Shawn’s pesto chicken dinner, his shrimp appetizer, and as a spread for panini’s or to even liven up simple turkey sandwiches. But I fell in love with pesto when my wife introduced me to an amazing restaurant called Giorgio’s. The waitress came around with bread for a free appetizer and asked if we wanted any of the dipping sauce. My wife said I had to try it and it was delicious. This bright green pesto sauce with olive oil drizzled over it was the perfect accompaniment to the bread. The extra olive oil softened some of the sharpness of the basil pesto taste. It is easy to plant and care for basil in a planter on your porch, and now that we have many plants, I had to try to make the best, freshest homemade basil pesto.
A quick search yielded a few key ingredients such as basil, obviously, but also some cheese, oil, and this thing called pine nuts. I had never heard of pine nuts, let alone tried one. But when I was in the nut aisle of the local grocery store and found pine nuts, I was going to try them in my recipe. I have heard that walnuts can be substituted, and I did try that once or twice, but the pine nuts give the pesto a nice nutty flavor, subtle but noticeable. I have tried tried toasting them on a skillet with no oil for a minute to bring out some more flavor, but I felt as if the pesto then became more focused on the nutty flavor rather than the basil.
As always, experiment. If you like a stronger nutty taste, toast the nuts. Same goes for the oil. Use your favorite whether it be virgin or extra virgin olive oil. I usually use the jarred minced garlic instead of whole garlic cloves. I have used the store brand grated parmesan you find in the pasta aisle but as we espouse in the pizza recipes, fresher is better and I would rather use fresh grated parmesan from the block.
While there are so many uses for basil pesto, one of my favorites is to scoop a dollop of pesto onto a saucer plate, then drizzle my favorite dipping or olive oil over the pesto, Take some freshly baked or crisped Italian bread, or any bread for that matter, and scoop some of the oil and pesto onto each bite. Freeze leftover pesto, if there is any, in ice cube trays to rejuvenate your weeknight spaghetti dinner.
- 3 cups basil leaves
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts (or walnuts)
- 1½ teaspoon minced garlic (about 3 garlic gloves)
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ⅔ cup grated parmesan
- ⅔ cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Put basil leaves into a food processor. Add pine nuts, garlic and oregano. Pulse until mixture is incorporated, about 7 3-4 seconds bursts.
- With a spatula, slide any pesto that has creeped up the food processor bowl back towards the bottom. Add parmesan and pulse again until parmesan is mixd in.
- Carefully, while food processor is on, slowly pour the olive oil into pesto mixture. With a spatula, scrape pesto mix that has gone up the sides back down again, and pulse as needed to desired consistency. Pesto should have some solids and not too soupy or fine.