Making your own basil pesto is very easy and the taste is beyond anything you will ever find in a jar. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always have fresh pesto on hand and have used the jarred type on many occasions. It tastes good and does the job, but it is NOT homemade! Homemade pesto is so delicious and fresh tasting. Once you have made your own, you won’t want to use jarred again.
If you grow basil or have access to big bunches from a farmers market or a friend’s garden, I highly recommend making up a batch of your own pesto.
Pesto is so versatile too. Of course, the traditional way is to toss it with some hot pasta. But you can also use it to stuff chicken breasts, on sandwiches, in sandwich fillings, to make bruschetta, in pasta salad, brushed on fish or a whole chicken, on pizza, as a marinade, dollop onto baked potatoes, spread onto crackers or toasted baguette….the list goes on!
One thing you do need to make pesto is a food processor. Once you have that, the rest is simple. All you need to do is:
Toss some buttery pine nuts into a dry pan and toast until just golden, don’t over-toast or they will be bitter. Remove from heat and allow them to cool.
Get your hands on a big bunch of fresh basil…you’ll need about 4 cups of leaves. I pull them off the stocks and give them a quick rinse, then pat dry with a tea towel. You can easily skip this step if you know how your basil has been grown…but I’m a bit of a germaphobe.
While the basil is drying and the pine nuts are toasting (they won’t take long so watch them closely and give them a stir every minute or two), roughly chop your garlic. You don’t need to be fussy, the food processor will do all the work.
Put basil leaves, garlic and pine nuts in the food processor and give them a quick whirl to roughly chop and combine, scraping down sides once or twice.
While processing, slowly drizzle in olive oil until the basil mixture is a fairly smooth consistency, scraping sides once or twice.
I don’t like the pesto totally smooth, I like when there is still a bit of texture.
If using immediately, by hand, stir in grated Pecorino Romano cheese. If freezing (it freezes well) drizzle tops with olive oil. Wait until just before serving to stir in the cheese.
I am freezing mine so I have divided into three freezer containers.
- 4 cups washed, dried and packed fresh basil leaves
- 4 - 5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle on top if freezing
- 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Pour pine nuts into a dry skillet, stirring frequently, toast nuts over low/medium heat until they are golden. Remove from heat and cool completely.
- Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Scraping down bowl once or twice.
- While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a small,steady stream.
- Adding the olive oil slowly, while the processor is running, will help it emulsify and keep the olive oil from separating.
- Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor.
- Pulse until the pesto fairly smooth and well combined.
- Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- If using immediately, add the grated Pecorino Romano cheese and stir by hand to combine
- If freezing, transfer pesto to air-tight container(s) and drizzle top(s) with olive oil.
- Freeze for up to 3 months.
- To use: thaw and stir in grated cheese.
- I divided mine into 3 containers, so when I thaw the pesto, I will stir in ⅓ of the grated cheese.
Hope you enjoy this recipe for Basil Pesto and as always, if you have any questions at all, feel free to ask and I will do my very best to answer.
How do you like to use pesto?
Have you ever made your own?