For the longest time I thought I didn't like pesto. Perhaps because I was confused about what exactly was in it: I just felt it was so unhealthy - I mean, a little olive oil is fine, but people were telling me they used two cups worth, and I am sorry, but that does NOT sound appetizing to me. I decided that I'd have to try to make the stuff eventually, but I could do it on my terms. Here is my recipe for pesto - it's an affordable version, too, because I used walnuts instead of pine nuts. And be sure to read the "Tips" section because I've got a handy way to make the flavors pop.
What You Need
2 cups fresh basil: we got the tender, tiny-leaved type at Whole Foods. They were sooo cute...
1/4 cups nuts: walnut or pine nuts will work - and I didn't do this at the time, but I imagine toasting them would be delish
1/2 cup olive oil, plus a little more when serving/storing
salt, pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic
squirt of lemon
2 to 3 oz parmesean (a block or already grated), optional
What You Do
In a grinder, or food processor, pulse the garlic and salt to make a little paste
Add the nuts and pepper and grind them roughly (if using parmesan cheese, you can add it now)
Add the basil and lemon juice, turn the processor on, and slowly pour in the olive oil till it forms a nice emulsion - DO NOT over-process, chunks of basil are just fine.
Tips from the Chef
- I didn't use cheese in mine and I didn't really miss it, but some people really, really enjoy cheese on their pasta, so if you want, add it to the pesto directly or grate some on top before eating
- don't pulse the basil too much - otherwise you break down the enzymes in the leaves and you'll have a really brown-looking pesto, not a bright green
- serve pesto over something that can grab it - like fusilli or some other swirly, ridged pasta
- when serving, add the pesto to your cooked pasta and drizzle over a little bit more olive oil and salt - this makes the mixture pop
- you can actually freeze pesto! just cover it with a little olive oil to retain freshness and use within 4 weeks