I’m an amateur gardener at best, but if there’s one thing I can grow, it’s basil. And boy, do we love basil. It’s so summer. It’s so fresh, peppery and absolutely delicious torn and loosely sprinkled over just about anything from pizza fresh out of the oven to an ordinary everyday salad. But when the weather gets warm and the basil starts multiplying before our eyes, I gather up cupfuls and make pesto.
Ah, pesto. It’s so simple and so quick. We love it over (gluten-free) pasta, slathered in between two slices of (gluten-free) bread along with mozzarella and tomato and grilled for a caprese panini and in place of pizza sauce on (gluten-free) pizza. And – bonus – it freezes beautifully. So gather up some bunches of basil, make some pesto and keep it in the freezer for when you want a little taste of summer later in the year.
yield: 4 servings (if using over 1 pound of pasta)
recipe notes: The following recipe makes enough pesto to cover one pound of pasta and is written as if you are also making pasta. If not making the pasta right away, skip those parts and just make the pesto. The ratios can easily be doubled if you find yourself with much more than 2 cups of pesto.
If you don’t have pine nuts – or don’t want to splurge (I find Trader Joe’s and Costo to have the best prices if you’re looking) – just substitute another, less expensive nut, like walnuts or almonds. If you don’t have basil but have, say, parsley, growing like wild then make parsley pesto. The recipe doesn’t call for this, but I do love my pesto with a good squeeze of lemon juice. If making pasta, I’ll make the pesto and then squeeze half of a lemon over the pesto pasta after I’ve tossed everything together. It wouldn’t hurt to squeeze it in before. Just taste and see what you like. To freeze , you can simply put the pesto in a freezer container (a tupperware is fine), cover the top with a small film of olive oil and freeze like that. If you want smaller portions, you can fill an ice cube tray, place in the freezer until the cubes are frozen and then pop them out & store in a freezer ziploc bag. I like doing the smaller portions because I can control how much I defrost. If using on sandwiches, I’ll defrost just one cube. If making a bunch of pasta, I’ll defrost 2 or 3.
2 loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove, or more to taste
2 tablespoons pine nuts, optionally toasted*
1/2 cup olive oil, or more to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (or Pecorino) cheese, plus more for garnish
1 pound any pasta (I like gluten-free brown rice pasta for this)
1. Bring a stockpot of water to a boil and salt it. Meanwhile, to toast the pine nuts, simply place them in a small pan over low-medium heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until they start to smell toasty & nutty and are slightly browned.
2. When the pine nuts are toasted and slightly cool, combine the basil, a pinch of salt, the garlic, nuts and about 1/2 the oil in a food processor or blender. Turn the machine on, stopping a couple times to scrape down the sides of the container and gradually adding the rest of the oil. Continue processing or blending until you have a smooth, thick consistency. Stir in the cheese.
3. When the water boils, cook the pasta until tender but not mushy; start tasting after 5 minutes. When the pasta is almost done, thin the pesto by stirring in some of the pasta-cooking water – start with just a tablespoon or so. You’re looking for the pesto to coat the back of a spoon.
4. When the pasta is done, scoop out and reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain it. Return the pasta to the stockpot and quickly toss it with the pesto, adding more cooking water if necessary to coat the noodles. Taste and adjust the seasoning, top with more grated cheese, if you like, and serve.
source: How to Cook Everything the basics by Mark Bittman
- 10 Ways to Use Pesto (Besides Pasta!) by thekitchn