Traditional Basil Pesto

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From my www.mykawartha.com blog.

If there is one taste of late summer that I really look forward to, it is that happy coincidence of garlic, basil, and tomato all coming into harvest at the same time (sure, garlic is almost done for the season, but fresh stuff is still readily available).

Around these parts, these coincidental great tastes mean some fairly serious kitchen work: sauce making, tomato canning, pesto-making…

Krista and I try to preserve as much as possible in order to ensure that we have tomatoes, tomato sauces, salsas and pestos to last the winter. We both prefer the tastes of our local, seasonal produce to that found in the grocery store.

I’ll probably write about tomato canning as we get into fall, but, in the meantime, here is a wonderful recipe for making your own pesto. We make a huge batch of pesto, put it into ice cube trays, freeze it, then put the cubes in freezer bags for safe long-term freezing.

A few notes: Purists will scoff at you for using a blender for making pesto. They will point out that it bruises the basil leaves as it cuts them, making for an inferior sauce. They will also tell you to freeze the pesto without the cheese for better consistency and texture.

To the purists, I say this: poppycock. And, if that weren’t enough: phooey.

I’ve made a lot of pesto in my time. I’ve frozen more than my share. I’ve not had any complaints. And I’ve always used a food processor, combined all ingredients, and then frozen. It turns out just fine. When you are dealing with pounds of basil, you don’t get fussy. Sure, if you are picky, you’ll notice that the food-processed pesto will be a slightly darker green (bruised) colour than a finely chopped basil pesto. But then, unless you know what you are doing and have extremely sharp knives, your basil will be bruised anyway. As for the cheese… Our pesto usually gets used in a hot dish (either on a pizza or on pasta for the most part). We also tend to add a bit of fresh cheese when cooking with it. By the time the pesto melts and the fresh cheese is added, no one will know that your cheese was ever frozen.

This is a small, manageable recipe. If you plan on freezing some for winter storage, I’d go no less than tripling the amounts.

The photo shows my basil pesto in the foreground with frozen garlic scape pesto in the back. I transfer the frozen pesto into freezer bags for longer-term freezing.

Ingredients:

• 2 (packed) cups fresh basil leaves (I get mine from Deep Roots Farm in Warsaw at the Peterborough Farmer’s Market) • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (why not try Empire Cheese’s Parmesan)
• 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts (I’ve been dying to try this with local black walnuts)
• 3 good sized garlic cloves

Procedure:
1. Place nuts in food processor and pulse on “chop” until crumbly.
2. Add garlic and pulse again until minced.
3. Add basil and pulse again until shredded but not mushy.
4. Turn on food processor to “mix” and slowly pour in a steady stream of olive oil.
5. Mix pesto and cheese in a large bowl.
6. Cover or freeze immediately.

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