Jo-Anne van den Berg-Ohms
1 1/2 cups packed basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
An easy recipe that is very versatile!
Our Favorite Basil Pesto
Wash and dry basil leaves: salad spinners work wonders. Toast pine nuts on a cookie sheet (with sides) until just golden. Watch them carefully: they go from pale to dark (burnt) very quickly.
We have taken a short cut by not using a mortar and pestle which is the traditional method. We put all ingredients in a good blender or food processor and puree, scraping down the sides, until well blended. Put a half cup in a pint freezer bag or a cup in a quart freezer bag (name and date each bag). Freeze them flat on top of each other. Once frozen, stand them up in the shelf of your freezer door for easy access. Since they are like thin envelopes, you can easily break off little pieces as you need them for easy, big flavor when cooking.
Be as inventive as you want to be with your pestos. You can use walnuts or almonds instead of the traditional pignoli or pine nuts. You can mix cilantro in with the basil leaves. You can add lemon zest. You could experiment with different hard cheeses, perhaps a hard sheep’s or goat’s milk cheese. Some people even add a little melted, unsalted butter into their olive oil to give their pesto a more creamy, rich taste. AND...you can create different types of pesto by using different types of basil: Sweet Broadleaf Basil, Purple Sweet Basil, Siam Queen Basil, Genovese Basil, Lemon Basil, Lime Basil or Mexican Spice Basil. For pesto with an Asian flavor, you may substitute roasted peanuts and add grated ginger root, cilantro and a bit of lemon juice.
Pesto is terrific at room temperature on fresh tomatoes and mozzarella cheese or served warm with pasta, potatoes and boneless breast of chicken or swordfish steaks. Add a bit of pesto to winter soups or stews for extra zing. For an easy appetizer: spread a thin layer of pesto over soft goat cheese in a little baking dish; warm briefly and serve with fresh, crusty baguette slices.