Fresh, simple and delicious, this go-to classic is better than anything you can buy. Plus, homemade pesto ensures you are getting all the benefits from fresh, nutrition-dense ingredients.
What nutrients you say?
- Pesto gets its fat from olive oil and pine nuts, which are both high in healthy unsaturated fats. Pine nuts are nutrient dense and, along with the basil, make pesto a good source of many nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K and many minerals.
- I've spent years experimenting with recipes to find my perfect pesto. It's a privilege to share with you now my favorite take on this classic recipe. It's not just for pasta anymore!
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Step 1: Ingredients
- Basil - I used about 4oz.
- Parmesan cheese - time to splurge on the good stuff - avoid the stuff in a can! I used about 2/3 cup
- Pine nuts - 1/2 cup
- Garlic! I used 3 cloves. If you're not a huge fan of the brashness of raw garlic, start with less and add more to taste. Get fresh, not that jarred stuff!
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 1 cup - not 'virgin olive oil', not 'olive oil', not 'light olive oil.' Get the BEST you can afford. All olive oil is not created equal, and the difference will astound you.
Step 2: Prep Your Ingredients
- Pick the leaves off the stems.
- Wash thoroughly and let drip-dry. Unless you have a fancy salad-spinner-centrifugal-force machine. Then do that.
It took me a while to learn that pine nuts don't get toasted in a toaster. Bad idea. They take forever to brown, then once you blink, they're black. You toast pine nuts in a dry, hot pan!
Since this is my preferred method of ingesting pine nuts, I toast them before adding them to the pesto. Totally optional. Do what you like. But if you want to be awesome, you'll toast them like me.
- Heat empty pan over high heat
- Add pine nuts
- Toss continuously until golden brown and aromatic
- Peel your garlic. That's it! You'll use a food processor to smash it all up.
Buttery, delicious, artisanal Parmesan cheese - once I tasted the good stuff, I was a convert for life.
- Shred your cheese before adding to mixture for best, most consistent results
Step 3: Mash It Up!
I hate my blender.
I used a food processor. The food processor I have is tiny. But not to worry! I did it in batches, but I really believe I could have crammed all that delicious pestoness into the tiny chamber with equally delicious results.
- Add garlic and pine nuts to processor.
- Spin! Achieve uniformly chopped bits.
- Add extra virgin olive oil
- Add basil. Cram it in - it can take it. Just when I thought the leaves would be stuck hopelessly above the spinning blades, they were sucked down into the whirling vortex of delicious.
- Blend until your pesto is evenly chopped and creamy - you'll know when it's ready for you
Step 4: The Cheese Stands Alone
But scooch! you say. What about the cheese? You've forgotten!
Oh no! I say. Do not add the cheese if you plan to freeze any of your pesto.
Even though I freeze shredded cheese all the time to use in quesadillas and omelets (since you asked), it definitely loses something in the translation. For the finest pesto time after time, add your cheese right before consuming.
Step 5: Send in the Cheese
- Separate the stuff for freezing from the stuff for eating.
- Freeze the former, return the latter to the processor.
- Add shredded Parmesan
- Blend to your heart's content.
I like to add a bit of salt and a bit of sugar to the final blend. I do it only to the batch that's ready for consumption so I can alter the others as I like.
I'm toying with the idea of hot sauce in the next one. . .
Step 6: Freeze or Consume
Pesto is great in so many things.
Pasta (obv.), but also as a pizza sauce, on bruschetta, in a sandwich, over fish, lamb, steak! Add it to a soup, stir it in your hummus, mix it up in your hamburger. Have it for breakfast - it's great in an omelet! Yay pesto!
I freeze up most of my batch to drop into dishes months down the road. But don't overheat your pesto or you will be sad.