I am blessed to have a space in a “borrowed/cooperative” garden in which I have enough basil plants that I can pick enough basil at one time to equal 3 packed cups. Time for pesto, of course!
An added bonus was freshly picked garlic from Farmer Dave of Dracut Mass who is at the Wakefield Farmer’s Market each Saturday. I had some walnuts in my freezer (just toasted them up a bit and they were fine) and parsley from same garden as the basil source, good olive oil… It was heavenly!
Here is the recipe I used as a guide – from Cook’s Illustrated – followed by my notes and pics:
Makes 3/4 cup, enough for 1 pound of pasta. Published July 1, 1996.
Pounding the basil releases its flavorful oils into the pesto more readily. Basil usually darkens in homemade pesto, but you can boost the green color a little by adding the optional parsley. For sharper flavor, substitute one tablespoon finely grated pecorino Romano cheese for one tablespoon of the Parmesan. The pesto can be kept in an airtight container, covered with a thin layer of oil (1 to 2 tablespoons), and refrigerated for up to four days or frozen for up to one month.
1/4 cup pine nuts , toasted (or substitute almonds or walnuts)
3 medium cloves garlic , unpeeled
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves (optional)
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano
Ground black pepper
1. Toast the nuts in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes; set aside. Add the garlic to the empty skillet and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant and the color of the cloves deepens slightly, about 7 minutes. Let the garlic cool slightly, then peel, and chop.
2. Place the basil and parsley (if using) in a heavy-duty 1-gallon zipper-lock plastic bag. Pound the bag with the flat side of a meat pounder or rolling pin until all the leaves are bruised.
3. Process the nuts, garlic, herbs, oil, and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt in a food processor until smooth, stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides of the bowl, about 1 minute. Stir in the Parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste.
First – I was wondering, just HOW packed should the cups of basil leaves be? So, I packed them pretty much to the max a few times and weighed the results each time. 1.5 ounces per cup is what I got consistently.
I had 3 cups/4.5 oz of basil leaves, to I increased amounts accordingly, although I lost concentration early on and toasted 3 times the amount of walnuts instead of 1 and 1/2 times, and also added .2 oz of leftover pine nuts I found in the fridge – but the pesto didn’t suffer from it!
Here is a shot of the freshly picked garlic from the Farmer’s Market that I used:
By the way, the knife you see in my pics was given to me by my Mom about 20 years ago. It is a great knife. And, I am lucky enough to have a live-in knife sharpening expert who keeps it and all my knives in most excellent shape!
Here is the end result:
Tomatoes picked from our backyard “whisky barrel” garden seasoned with a bit of dried oregano, freshly ground pepper, and salt, and then drizzled with olive oil,
The above-described pesto, and
Totally amazing “aged 3 years” cheddar cheese purchased at, yes, you guessed it, the Wakefield Farmer’s Market from Phil Hermann and MooBaaNaa Cheese. (I bought the ricotta today, also, and look forward to trying it. Phil said it is great for dessert with a touch of honey.)
But, here is our little appetizer feast: