Monday, August 23, 2010


I think you could say that my husband is addicted to pesto. Of course, I never cease to remind him that when we first started dating he wouldn't even try it. Green stuff on pasta? Gross! But then one night I finally convinced him to try a little bite. Then he tried another... and now it's all I can do to keep him from eating it by the spoonful before dinner.

In the spring I buy one of those small pots of organic basil that the grocery store expects people to use in their kitchens. The greatest thing about these pots of kitchen herbs, is that they're filled with a dozen or more seedlings. So, rather than spend $1.99 (minimum) per tiny basil plant at a nursery, I spend $1.99 for anywhere from 12 to 20 healthy, organic seedlings. I plant them outside, and by July I have my own little basil forest. The price savings is really inconsequential when you factor in the expense of the pine nuts, cheese, and olive oil, but I can't see the point in spending $20 on plants when you could just spend $2.

There are many pesto variations, of course, but there are two that stick out most in my mind. The best pesto I ever remember having was in a restaurant on the way to Vermont one summer. I wish that I knew the name of the restaurant, but unfortunately, I don't even know the name of the town. It was from them that I learned to keep some of the pine nuts whole. The second best pesto was an electric green batch that I made when we were living in our first apartment together. That year, I grew the basil on the fire escape. I have no idea what caused the color of the pesto to be so lime green, but it was the best batch I ever made, and I haven't been able to replicate it since.

I never make it the same way twice, and a lot depends on small adjustments for taste, but I've finally written down my recipe for pesto (I had to remind myself to measure). I make multiple huge batches of pesto every summer and freeze it for winter consumption. We eat pesto on pasta, in risotto, on paninis, on salad, and in cold pasta salads. It's pretty versatile, and it's always an easy go-to meal. This recipe will make about 4 cups of pesto; I normally double it.

J'adore: Pesto

6 medium cloves of garlic
8 oz. pine nuts
3 cups basil leaves
1 cup parsley leaves
2 cups grated cheese (I use a parmesan/romano blend)
1/2 to 1 cup olive oil
sea salt

Peel each of the garlic cloves and mince in a food processor. Scrape down the sides and pulse again. Add 7 to 7.5 ounces of the pine nuts and blend until the garlic and nuts make a think, chunky paste. Rinse and spin/dry the basil leaves and parsley. Add three cups of packed basil leaves, one cup of packed parsley, 2 cups of grated cheese, and at least 1/2 a cup of oil to the food processor. Blend until all of the leaves are finely chopped. Add oil to thin to desired consistency. Add a pinch or two of sea salt, if desired. Stir in the remaining whole pine nuts.

Serve with pasta or any way you like!

*It's best to harvest the basil early in the morning before the sun gets too hot. Making pesto on a rainy day is another safe bet. The flavor and color tend to be better this way.
*The parsley helps to keep the basil and pesto from turning brown.
*Freezes well, just sit out or in the refrigerator to thaw.
*If storing in the fridge, it will last better with a bit of extra olive oil.
*If you are microwaving, microwave the pasta first, then mix in the pesto. Although pesto tastes great on already heated foods, it does not taste-- or look-- so great when it is heated directly in a microwave or pot.
*It would be easier to just throw everything in the food processor and press the on button, but then you end up with big chunks of garlic unevenly spread throughout the pesto. In my experience, it's most important to blend the garlic first, then the nuts, and then everything else. This is also the reason that I use so much garlic right from the start. You can always tone it down by adding more pine nuts, cheese, basil, or parsley, according to your taste preferences, but it's hard to add more garlic after the fact.

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