Pesto

Apparently I’ve been busy the past two weeks. I think my last post was July 24th. I know there was a trip to visit with my youngest sister and her family, but the rest has flown by with all the basics of life. Chores, errands, cleaning, cooking, some packing, a little quilting, just the usual stuff, plus a lot of my annual doctor visits.
So, for my first post in August, I want to talk about making pesto. My house smells fabulous. This is how I think Italian houses must smell all the time, and my sense of smell is saying, “Yuuuummmmmm!”
I surfed for recipes for pesto and learned that there is a classic version that most people use. Garlic, lots of basil, pine nuts, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, Parmesan cheese and olive oil are the ingredients.
I bought a pot of basil in May, intending to plant it outside, but it kept residence on the shelf between the sink and the kitchen window. My sister, Frankie, repotted it for me when she was here, and I’d been watering it. It was long and leggy and had started to grow shoots off the stems, so I had a LOT of basil. I was shopping with a friend yesterday and saw Colavita olive oil on sale for a great price, so I decided this was Pesto Weekend!
I peeled the garlic and cut off the root end. I have a VERY basic food processor. It has no amenities. It is either off or on, and you can pulse the contents, but that’s all it has to offer. I use it about once a year, so I didn’t really want to spring for the terribly expensive one that I’m sure Cook’s Illustrated would like me to use. It chopped the garlic very nicely. Next I added the basil, which I had snipped from the stems. It took four cups. The only thing the recipe didn’t explain was how densely packed the leaves should be, so I went for a medium amount of compacting. The processor chopped the leaves finely.
At that point you add the pine nuts, Parmesan, salt and pepper and blend it all together. It looks odd, and was trying to form a ball. The final step is to add, with the motor running, one cup of olive oil. Almost immediately I got something that more resembled pesto. Once all the oil had been added, I unplugged the machine, took the top off, and scraped down the sides. I reassembled it and gave it another whirl to be sure everything was well incorporated. It was beautiful, and smelled heavenly.
The recipe advised freezing the pesto in ice cube trays. Each “cube” takes about one tablespoon of pesto. I ended up with 18 tablespoons. To prevent the basil from turning dark, you cover the pesto with a light film of olive oil, and then cover the ice cube tray with plastic wrap. I pressed the wrap down onto the oil to push out the air, and then put the trays in the freezer. When they are frozen, I’ll pop the pesto out of the trays and store them in a freezer bag to use as needed. I’m positive I’ll be using it in my minestrone soup, and probably on pizza dough as the base of an appetizer.
I think next time I will try packing the leaves more tightly. And, next time, I may try doubling the recipe. Although, homemade pesto has a shelf life of about six months. I may need to keep an eye on the basil season at the Farmer’s market, to see if I could make the next batch closer to the end of September. That batch would take me through March.
2012 shall be known as “The Year of Pesto!” *G*
For the complete recipe, visit The Yummy Life. Here’s the site if you’d like pictures of the process.

2 thoughts on “Pesto

  1. Having 4 basil plants in the garden, that have done very well, I’ve been thinking about pesto too.
    I have one of those basic food processors and was wondering how basil would do in it. I figured it wouldn’t get chopped up too well, so have used that as an excuse not to make pesto. Guess I know better now!
    Thanks for adding how it acts before putting in the oil – I probably would panick seeing it ball up, now I know what to expect.

  2. Bogie, this is one you can do! I think I have the most basic Black and Decker food processor. It’s really just and on/off and pulse, so you shouldn’t have any trouble with your model. As simple as mine is, it did a fine job cutting up the basil. I’m glad you commented. I need to pop the pesto cubes out of the ice cube trays and put them into a freezer bag. Good luck, when you make your pesto!

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