These days you can buy things called “pesto” with all kinds of weird ingredients in them (olives, walnuts, roasted peppers). I’m a purist. Pesto is made of: basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan, and olive oil. That’s it. (Sometimes parsley is added for freshness and extending the limited basil supply.) The actual proportions depend on what you have. My basic recipe is below. Do not make this in a blender. If you do not have a food processor, the next option is a mortar & pestle and course salt (which requires much more effort, but I made my first batches that way).
Lucinda’s Pesto Recipe
Makes about one cup; most recipes would tell you to use this much for 6 servings of pasta, but I’m stingy with my pesto so I never use the whole batch at once.
- 3 packed cups fresh basil leaves (washed and removed from stems) [about one large bunch or a couple of smaller bunches]
- 2-6 large cloves fresh garlic
- 1/2 cup pinenuts [many recipes will tell you to use walnuts, almonds or a combination; I never use anything other than pinenuts; if I have the time and inclination, I toast them first in a dry frying pan]
- 3/4 cup (packed) fresh-chopped parsley [optional]
- 3/4 cup fresh-grated parmesan [some recipes use part parmesan and part romano]
- 1/2-3/4 cup olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste [optional]
Combine everything except olive oil in a food processor. Process briefly on low, then add olive oil while processing on high. Within 30-60 seconds you should have perfect pesto of whatever consistency you like. Toss with hot, drained pasta or spoon onto hot Gnocchi or use in pasta salad or . . . . The possibilities are endless. Enjoy!
- There are controversies about storing homemade pesto. I spoon it into a jar, cover with a layer of oil (this avoids discoloration), and close with a tight-fitting lid. Some experts claim that spores can form in the oil and cause severe illness . . . I’ve never had a problem. If you are worried about this, I recommend only making as much pesto as you will eat right away . . .
- To enjoy fresh pesto any time of year, you can make a batch without the cheese and freeze it. . . or just blend the basil and oil and freeze that, then you can add all the other ingredients fresh later. . .