It's harvest time in Northern New England and like every year for the past 20, I'm cutting my basil and putting up a year's worth of pesto. Everyone claims my pesto is the best theyve had anywhere. Now you can have some too.
Step 1: Ingredients
1 food processor, grating and chopping blades
3 cloves - 1 bulb garlic
1/4 lb good parmesan cheese
1/2 stick (2 oz) butter
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c pine (pignola) nuts
1 ice cube tray (for freezing)
Step 2: Prepare the Parmesan
While you can buy already shredded parmesan, I like to use the best ingredients in my pesto, so I buy good parmesan and grate my own. Put the grating blade onto the food processor and grind the parmesan. The piece pictured here is 1/2 lb - enough for 2 batches. I only grated half of it. Remove the grated cheese from the processor bowl (you'll get about a cup of it) and set aside. Remove the grating blade from the processor and put on the chopping blade to get ready for the basil.
Step 3: Prepare the Basil
Pick through the basil saving only the leaves. Throw away any stems, flowers, and bad spots. I aim for a colander full of crisp green leaves. Wash them and dry. You can squeeze handfuls of basil to get the water out or use a salad spinner, towel, etc. Once dried, put it into the food processor bowl.
Step 4: Mmm, Garlic
Peel the garlic and add it to the food processor bowl. I wouldn't use less than 3 cloves and if you're a garlic fan, you can use as much as a full bulb. Here's an easy way to peel garlic: Put your palm on top of a clove. Push down on the back of that hand with your other hand until you feel the clove underneath "give". Now pick up your hand, the skin will peel right off the clove. You can peel a full bulb in 30 seconds this way.
If you add a lot of garlic, you're going to want to add some parsley too. Parsley keeps you from stinking after you eat garlic. Toss a handful of parsley into the processor bowl.
Step 5: Butter and Oil
If you've got health restrictions or dietary preferences, you don't have to use butter, but I find a little bit gives the pesto a creamy consistency that is really luxurious. Take 1/2 a stick of butter and melt it in the microwave or by some other method. If you don't want to use butter, add 1/4 cup of olive oil instead.
To the melted butter add 1/2 cup of olive oil. You can use really find olive oil here, because we're not going to be heating it.
Step 6: Make the Pesto Base
Turn on the food processor and drizzle in the butter and oil. Grind the basil, garlic, and parsley until it is totally smooth and no pieces of basil remain. I usually stop the food processor 4 or 5 times to scrape the sides with a spatula, then grind some more. Grind until it looks like mine does in the picture.
Step 7: Finish It Off
Now add the grated parmesan to the food processor bowl. Use just 4 or 5 quick pulses to mix in the cheese without chopping it further. The chunky consistency of the pesto is one of its best features.
Add the pine nuts and pulse another 5 or 6 times. Aim to chop the nuts some but not pulverize them. The second picture shows the completed pesto.
Step 8: Freeze and Eat Fresh
If you want to freeze some of the pesto, load it into an ice cube tray and freeze it overnight. Once frozen, you can pop out the cubes and save them in a plastic freezer bag. We throw a cube or two onto pasta whenever we need a quick meal. If you're lucky, you'll have a little left over to eat fresh. Pesto is really good on bread, crackers, vegetables like tomatoes and celery stalks, all kinds of pasta, fish, ...