Pesto is one of the classic ways to use fresh basil. Summer would not be the same without it. I watch my basil plants grow and check each day to see if they are ready to harvest. I cannot get too eager and pick them early because I want to have plenty for a big batch. My pesto with basil and fresh herbs recipe calls for 6 to 8 cups or more of loosely packed leaves. It is important to use only the leaves. The stems or flowers will give it a bitter taste and that is not so good.
A basic pesto has only a few ingredients. Basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan. My recipe has a few more ingredients. I add lemon zest and juice for both flavor and to help slow it from oxidizing (turning brown). I have to throw in more fresh herbs because they seem to work so well in the mix. I also reserve some pine nuts to hand chop and stir in at the end for texture. A little salt and fresh cracked pepper go in for seasoning.
Making pesto is not difficult. Well, if you want a good workout then make it with a mortar and pestle. Me? I use a food processor. I get my workouts with gardening and walking. Most all the ingredients go in the processor and are chopped with the knife blade. My 12-cup model is filled almost to the top:
A quick process and then it is almost done. All that is left is stirring in the cheese and hand chopped pine nuts. I will add more olive oil to get the consistency I prefer. It should be thick but not like a paste. Then the pesto fest begins. I put it on pasta (croxetti is my favorite – see my Pasta With Butter Thyme Sauce to see how croxetti looks). Pesto on shrimp, chicken, or turkey is out of this world. For an easy appetizer slice fresh from the garden tomatoes and add a dollop of pesto on top of each slice.
How do you use pesto? I have some and I am looking for something different to use it with. I would love to see your suggestion in the comments below.
Pesto with Basil and Fresh Herbs
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- Zest and juice from 1/2 lemon
- 2 garlic cloves chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1/3 cup fresh parsley leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Fresh cracked pepper
- 6 to 8 cups fresh basil leaves no stems or flowers
- 1/2 cup olive oil plus more if needed
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Roughly chop 2 tablespoons pine nuts and set aside.
In a food processor fitted with a knife blade, add 1/3 cup pine nuts, lemon zest and juice, garlic, thyme, parsley, salt, pepper, basil, and 1/3 cup olive oil. Switch on the food processor and drizzle in the remaining oil while processing (about 30 seconds to 1 minute). Scrape down the sides of the processor bowl. Process again for a few more seconds. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and the 2 tablespoons chopped pine nuts. Add more olive oil if needed. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers. (Best stored in a narrow container with a layer of olive oil on top to lessen or prevent oxidation/browning).
Pesto can also be frozen. Use ice cube trays and then transfer the frozen pesto cubes to a plastic freezer bag or container.
Pesto with Basil and Fresh Herbs is a spin on the traditional. It's a versatile sauce for pasta, sandwiches, wraps, and vegetables.