Last year when I visited my parent's house I was immediately inspired by their herb and vegetable gardens. They had beautiful tomatoes, amazing green beans and aromatic herbs. When I was planning my garden prior to spring this year, I decided to put that inspiration to work.
After stopping by the store to purchase seedlings, I decided to build a shelving unit so that I could safely store my herbs on our deck and receive plenty of sunlight. In addition to our tomato plant, Rosemary, Basil, Italian Parsley, Mint and Chives are all in my backyard and I take such joy in walking onto our deck and snipping fresh herbs to use in my recipes.
With so much Basil on hand, I've been trying to think of different ways to use it in recipes. One of my favorite ways to cook with basil is by making Pesto. Basil Pesto is a very versatile sauce and it is such a simple recipe that tastes great when added to a variety of dishes.
Traditionally, Pesto is prepared in a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. The Basil leaves are washed, dried and placed in the mortar with garlic and salt. Pine nuts are then added once the mixture reaches a creamy consistency. Once the pine nuts are incorporated, grated cheese and olive oil are added. The pesto can then be stored in an air-tight jar in the refrigerator for up to a week or can be stored in the freezer for later use.
Today, there are many different varieties of pesto, some of which use Parsley instead of Basil or walnuts instead of pine nuts, just to name a few variations. I prefer to stick to the traditional way of preparing Basil; however, I do substitute a marble mortar and wooden pestle for my food processor.
Fresh Basil Pesto
- 2 cups packed fresh Basil leaves
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese*
- Combine the basil, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until chopped.
- Add the olive oil and combine until smooth; Season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer Pesto to a bowl and mix in the Parmesan cheese. *If you plan on storing the Pesto for later use, do not add the Parmesan cheese. Only add the Parmesan cheese once you are ready to serve the Pesto. If you choose not to serve it immediately, add a layer of olive oil on top of the sauce once it is placed in jar. This extra layer will help preserve the sauce for as long as possible.
- Grilled meats and seafood as a dressing
- Mayonnaise and use as a sandwich spread
- Mashed potatoes
- Pasta as either a cream or Alfredo sauce
- Pizza instead of the traditional tomato-based sauce
- Scrambled eggs