My love affair with pesto and all things basil started at an early age. I remember the first time I had pesto – my dad took me to dinner at Avenue Bistro in Toledo, OH. I was a nasty hybrid of vegetarian + picky-teen-eater at the time so my dinner was essentially a house salad and this mystery green concoction on the table. I probably ate at least two loaves of bread covered in pesto. My dad must have been horrified at the amount of food I consumed, since he was the type who ran five miles a day and lived off of iceberg lettuce alone. But oh man that stuff was good.
Now that I’m a “grown up” I can make my own pesto. Honestly, it’s so easy I’m sure I could have made it back then, too. The bright flavor of basil with the salty parmesan cheese, plus the subtle depth added by the toasted pine nuts (mmm, pine nuts)… pesto is just divine on all accounts. It’s a perfect, refreshing snack in the summer – just buy a loaf of crusty bread at the store, rip off a piece, and dunk it on in! Don’t want the guilt that accompanies realizing you’ve eaten a whole loaf of bread in one sitting? Try using it as a pasta sauce – just toss it with pasta. Maybe add a splash of cream if you feel so inclined… I think I like where this is going….
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- 1 C basil leaves
- 1/2 C freshly-grated parmesan
- 2 – 3 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted (some stores will sell them pre-toasted if you’re not a fan of toasting them yourself)
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- Splash of fresh lemon juice (optional)
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 – 1/2 C olive oil
1. Whir everything except the oil in a food processor until it forms a paste.
2. Pour oil in, a few tablespoons at a time, while the food processor is running until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. (Some people like theirs with less oil, ideal for spreading, while others like it with more oil, which makes it more dip-able)
3. Taste and adjust salt and pepper
*This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled for company
*It’s not baking – so don’t worry about exact amounts. Adjust the taste to your liking – you can even add a different kind of cheese or different leafy greens – spinach & feta perhaps?
*A splash of lemon juice is always a welcome addition to pesto
*Extra pesto can be frozen in ice cube trays – it makes a great addition to pasta sauces. I like to add a pesto cube to red sauce for an extra boost of flavor.