Last summer, I started a small container garden that consisted of four basil plants. I thought it would be fun to have fresh basil available to top pizzas, pasta salads and other summer dishes. With very little attention from me, my basil grew like a weed. So much so, that I named it “my basil forest.” Since these massive plants yielded more leaves than I could ever hope to chiffonade and toss atop a favorite dish, I started making pesto.
I consulted Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything to learn how to make pesto. Reading his “Basics of Pesto” section, I learned that pesto is a traditional method of preserving herbs (not just basil!) in oil. Pesto can be frozen, without cheese, for several months or stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks (use your discretion).
Making pesto is an amazingly simple process. With five ingredients and a food processor, you can have bright, freshly-made pesto in a matter of minutes.
Yields about 1 cup
2 loosely packed cups of basil leaves
salt to taste
1/2 – 2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp pine nuts or walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (optional)
1. lightly toast the nuts in a dry skillet.
2. Rinse and dry the basil leaves, removing any large stems.
3. Place the basil, salt, garlic, nuts and about 1/2 of the olive oil in the work bowl of a food processor or blender.
4. Process the mixture, scraping down the sides occasionally to ensure that all of the ingredients are mixed uniformly.
5. Gradually add the rest of the olive oil. If you prefer a thinner pesto, add additional olive oil.
6. If cheese is desired, stir in by hand just before serving.