The end of summer is here, and for me this often means that I’m completely overloaded with basil from the garden and need to make pesto to freeze and/or eat right away. I wish that that were the case this summer, because I love having lots of pesto stored away all year round for those winter days when I really want a taste of summer, but basil costs $5.00 per sprig and is flown in from Chile. Unfortunately, my basil plant performance was substandard this year so I had to resort to buying basil to make my yearly stock of pesto. Better luck next year, I suppose!
The great thing about pesto is that it’s SUPER easy to make. On top of that it’s delicious, freezes really well, and you can do lots of other things with it besides putting it on pasta (like using it on a pizza instead of pizza sauce).
Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make enough pesto to freeze some and eat some right away:
4 c. packed basil leaves
1 c. pine nuts
1 c. shredded parmesan
1/2 c. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
1 tsp salt
Wash and dry the basil leaves and throw them into your food processor (a blender would probably do the trick, although I’ve never tried). Add the pine nuts, parmesan, garlic, and salt. Turn on the food processor and slowly pour in the olive oil in a constant stream. Process until the pesto reaches the consistency you want. I like it pretty smooth, personally. You may have to scrape down the edges and process it again. You should get something looking like this:
If you’re going to freeze some, what I always do is put the pesto into an ice cube tray and set it in the freezer. Once it’s frozen, I take my pesto cubes out and transfer them to a freezer bag. Throughout the year, I’ll take out pesto cubes as I need them, put them in a small bowl in the refrigerator in the morning, and let them defrost until the evening. If I forget to defrost them, or don’t plan that far ahead, I’ll throw them in the microwave for 30 second increments. I prefer not to do this, though, because it melts the cheese before you can mix the pesto in with pasta and you end up with big globs of pesto rather than a nice even spread of it.
After you fill up one ice cube tray, you should have a nice-sized portion left over for tonight’s dinner. Since I had some green beans from our CSA, I decided to cook them up and toss them in with the pesto and linguine. The result was definitely tasty, and little lighter than it would have been with just pasta and pesto thrown in together. Other things you could toss in with your pasta include halved cherry tomatoes, lightly wilted spinach leaves (or arugula), or roasted bell peppers. And there you have another tasty summer dish!