Basil Pesto

Basil is easy to grow, and each plant produces a lot. There’s only such much fresh basil you can use at any one time. So make pesto with basilthat abundance.

On its own, it’s a light sauce for pasta or a topping for baked potatoes. Joy of Cooking says use 2 tablespoons per portion and mix with equal amount of butter. I toss pasta with maybe half that amount and no butter.

Use it as a seasoning for soups, stews or other types of sauces. Remember though it has an oily texture and pungent flavour, so best to start with a small amount and taste before adding more.

Here is how I make it – based on the recipe in Joy of Cooking (1997 ed.) with one big change. I use a blender instead of a mortar and pestle. I can’t pesto ingredientscompare the two directly since I’m not adept enough at using a mortar and pestle to have ever successfully made it that way. However, mine made with a blender tastes as good as pesto I have bought or had in restaurants.

Pesto ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan or Sardinia cheese
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

My Method

unsticking-blenderI put everything in the blender and use the lowest setting. Toggling the switch on and off helps keep it from jamming. If the ingredients do block the mechanism, turn it off and poke around inside to stir things up. I use a chopstick. It helps to do that anyway so that ingredients blend evenly.

It makes enough to fill a small (227 g) cream cheese container with enough left over for a fettuccine meal.

Joy of Cooking Method

Joy of Cooking says put basil leaves in mortar and pound with pestle. Add garlic and pine nuts and pound.

pesto in containerAdd cheese, until the mixture forms a thick purée. Very slowly add olive oil, stirring constantly, until it’s the consistency of creamed butter.

Put a thin film of olive oil over the top. Cover and refrigerate or freeze.

Parsley may be substituted, but of course the flavour is very different. (It’s really good too. Make it the same way, with the same quantities.)

 

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