There are a few things this summer that has brought me pure joy. The first is the sweetest peaches I have had in years. I cannot get enough of them and am already sad that they are now gone. The next joy is basil, and I keep wondering why it has been beyond amazing this summer. It is the most aromatic basil I have purchased in a very long time. I am lucky that the market I go to sells it in big bouquets as opposed to small plastic containers with a few leaves. This gives me even more of a reason to continue making this pesto.
A few weeks ago I grabbed not one but three huge bunches of basil and brought it home. When I got to the market I had no intention of making pesto but then the aroma of fresh-picked basil completely grabbed me. When I went to pay the girl helping me asked “are you making pesto?” I have not made it in years mainly because it is hard to find bunches of basil instead of small containers filled with it, and the price of pinenuts is outrageous. The basil was a treat in this case and the pinenuts a splurge.
I came home and started digging through a binder with old cooking notes that I keep. I kind of remember that the last time I made pesto was about three to four years ago so it didn’t take long to find my scribbled down recipe. After toasting the pinenuts, I poured a glass of wine and sat on the deck removing each tender leave of basil. When Lenny walked out he immediately knew what was happening and even commented on how it has been years since I have made any.
Here are a few tips to make your homemade pesto the best it can be:
- Basil – take advantage of summer and use the freshest basil you can find.
- Olive Oil – use a good quality olive oil as it adds more flavor.
- Garlic – do not use peeled or crushed. Buy fresh garlic as the flavor will be even better.
- Pinenuts – toasting them really enhances the flavor of the other ingredients. Makes a difference from good to great.
Most people only use pesto on pasta, and that is a complete waste. While it is really good tossed with warm noodles, it can be used in so many other ways. I have used it in soups and stews as well as drizzled over grilled vegetables and fish. It is also good when tossed with sauteed green beans or zucchini.
Since the day I have been making pesto weekly and now I have started tucking it away in the freezer for winter. Like the peaches, I am sure that this gorgeous basil will not be at the market much longer and until I see the last of the sweet bunches I am going to continue making it. One can never have enough pesto in their life.
3 1/2 cups basil
2 garlic cloves (13 grams), peeled
3 1/2 tablespoons pinenuts, toasted
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/2 cup high-quality olive oil
kosher salt, to taste
Place everything except for the olive oil and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Process until paste forms.
With the food processor running slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Mix until smooth.
Season to taste with salt.
Pour into a container and drizzle the top with some olive oil – this helps preserve the pesto and keeps it from turning brown. If you want to freeze the pesto, make sure your container is freezer proof.