This time of year our gardens are yielding some awesome rewards for our labors and the farmer’s markets are a bounty of great local produce, herbs and the like. Basil is readily available and it’s super cheap. It was the perfect time to make some basic homemade pesto.
A basic homemade pesto is extraordinarily easy and very worth the small amount of time it takes to make it. All you need is a good food processor. If you are like me, my eyes are bigger than my needs. That meant that I shared my pesto bounty with my neighbors and friends or I froze it to use later on in the fall.
Basic Homemade Pesto
Ingredients: Makes approximately 4 – 4 oz. jars of pesto
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- 8 to 9 oz. fresh basil leaves (3 cups packed)
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Extra olive oil for coating
Clean and de-steam the fresh basil to equal 3 packed cups. Using a cutting board, sprinkle a few pinches of salt over the minced garlic; mash together to make a rough paste. Add the garlic paste to your food processor with the basil, pine nuts and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Pulse a few times until all the ingredients are finely chopped. With the food processor running, add the remaining oil in a slow and steady stream. Then add the Parmesan and pulse to combine. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and pulse once or twice more to integrate and you’re done. Using a canning funnel and 4 oz jars, fill each jar leaving a ¼ inch head space. Add a bit of olive oil to cover the top of the pesto to prevent oxidation. Refrigerate for 4 to 5 days. With a bit of a modification, you can freeze it up to 3 months. Note freezing instructions below.
Notes: When freezing, it’s best to make the pesto without the cheese. When you’re ready to use a jar, unthaw the basil mixture, and then mix in 1 tablespoon of freshly grated Parmesan cheese until it’s incorporated and you’re good to go.
Weighing the basil makes it easier to ensure you have the right quantity. The fresher the basil you use the better. You can use the prepackaged grated cheese. I’ve used freshly grated and prepackaged; they both work. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese obviously is better. If you can’t find toasted pine nuts, you can easily toast them in a dry skillet for a few minutes until they are lightly browned and aromatic.
Variations: There are many ways to make pesto. Below are a few suggestions.
- Walnuts, pecans or any variety of nuts or seeds you like instead of the pine nuts.
- Replace the basil with parsley.
- A combo of equal parts arugula and basil.
- Spinach and walnuts are a fun combination if you’re a spinach fan like me.
- Cilantro along with pumpkin seeds is a very nice combination as well.
I do love this basic homemade pesto. It had such a fresh, bright flavor that it makes the store-bought version pale in comparison. It also makes great gifts when you’re looking to give someone something that isn’t sweet but has so many uses. All you need is a pretty jar, a cloth cap with a bit of ribbon and you’re ready to give this delight away to someone special.
I have a recipe coming soon where I use this homemade pesto in a simple but scrumptious appetizer.
Time to share and to eat…
P.S. Take a moment to check out some of the tools I used for this “Basic Homemade Pesto” below. 🙂