Fresh Basil Pesto


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PestoSummer hot weather makes my basil plants grow enthusiastically. This is the time to cut them back, because more leaves will sprout from every node of each stem. I like to make pesto the day I plan to eat it, though if you film the top with a little olive oil, it will keep, covered, in the refrigerator.

Traditional Pesto makes about 1 1/2 cups

  • 3 plump cloves garlic, peeled
  • generous pinch salt
  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts (about 1 ounce)
  • 1 large bunch of fresh basil, yielding 3 cups packed leaves (3 oz)
  • 1/2 c plus 1 Tbsp mild olive oil (5 oz)
  • 1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 ounce grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Traditional pesto is made with a mortar and pestle, and is a silky smooth delight. My everyday pesto uses the food processor, and is unashamedly chunkier. 

Put garlic cloves, salt, and pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor. Whiz to chop finely and combine. Add the basil leaves, and whiz again. With the motor running, slowly pour the olive oil through the feed tube, and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the cheeses, and puree about a minute more.

Serve, or store with a thin film of olive oil on top. Pesto does not freeze well – to freeze, omit the cheese, and add it in once you’ve thawed the basil/oil paste.

NOTE: if you don’t have pine nuts, you can use raw almonds or walnuts, or even sunflower seeds. Adjust the ingredients and proportions to fit your taste and what’s on hand.