My basil plant was huge and bordering on out of control – it was high time to make my favorite raw and vibrant pesto sauces. For starters, I think it’s important to use good quality extra-virgin olive oil for optimum flavor…period! This first pesto (seen above) substitutes toasted slivered almonds for pine nuts, which can be double the cost of almonds, taking decades to grow and decades to produce. It’s pretty similar to the classic pesto we know, with another substitute, Pecorino-Romano cheese, in place of Parmesan. On occasion (when I have Parmesan), I’ll use 50/50. FYI – Parmesan costs up to 3x the price of Romano.

Tip: If you use Romano cheese exclusively, you can cut back or omit the garlic altogether because it’s plenty sharp – I forgot it in this batch, and to my surprise it was delicious. I didn’t miss it, go figure! My 2nd pesto is a variation, with a slightly peppery kick from pine nuts and walnuts, less garlic, and Romano and Parmesan. I like to use it mainly as a condiment with Piadina, crackers and bread sticks.

Pesto doesn’t have to be precise when it comes to the ingredients and measures, so you can come up with a balance that suits your taste buds. Whether buttery and subtle, peppery and sharp, or somewhere in between, don’t underestimate the raw garlic…too much can overpower. Fresh basil grows beautifully during summer months (provided you pinch back the flowing buds). It’s also a bargain when you buy it at local farmer’s markets.

Pesto is also nutritious and versatile, so go ahead and mix it into hot cooked pasta or cold pasta salad – spread it on crostini or panini or stir it into sauces and dips. Of course fresh is always best, but you can also freeze pesto for at least 6 months. Contrary to what chef’s say about freezing pesto without the cheese – I never do that, and I don’t think it’s necessary (just my opinion). One more thing about the cheese – be sure to use freshly grated Romano and Parmesan from a block. The grated packaged stuff is inferior (tasteless)…ick.

Enough said…now on to the recipes.

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Basil Pesto

Makes about 1 1/4 cups; serves 4, over 1 pound of cooked pasta

 2  cups (packed) fresh basil leaves

1/2  cup toasted slivered almonds

4  garlic cloves

1/2  teaspoon kosher salt

1/4  teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2  cup freshly Romano cheese (or Parmesan), or 1/4 cup each

1/2-2/3  cup or more extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

 

Pesto With Pine Nuts and Walnuts

Makes 1 1/4 cups; serves 4, over 1 pound of cooked pasta

2  cups (packed) fresh basil leaves

1/4  cup pine nuts

1/4  cup walnuts

2  garlic cloves

1/2  teaspoon kosher salt

1/2  teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4  cup freshly grated Romano cheese

1/4  cup Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2-2/3  cup or more extra-virgin olive oil

 

In the work bowl of a food processor, begin pulsing the basil, nuts, garlic, salt, pepper and cheese. Gradually add the oil through the feed tube in a slow stream, until smooth and thick. Add more oil if a looser consistency is desired. Transfer to a jar and cover with a thin layer of olive oil, or place a small piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pesto (to prevent oxidation/browning). Seal and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Pesto freezes well; I use half-pint Mason jars. You can also fill ice cube trays with pesto and freeze – then drop the frozen cubes into airtight plastic freezer bags and freeze for up to 6 months (or longer). Thaw completely before using, and stir in more olive oil if needed to ease spreading.

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One Response to Pesto; Basil…two ways

  1. Linda Capodieci Jones says:

    Sounds delicious, can’t wait to try it!!! Love, Sis

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