If you are anything like us, you are probably ending the season with a ton of extra basil. It’s such a great summer ingredient that we always tend to grow way more than we can ever hope to use. Enter the mighty pesto sauce, basil pesto to be precise. This nutty herb sauce is perfect on pasta, sandwiches, and just about anything else you feel like slathering it on. It’s easy to make, easy to freeze (it lasts up to 6 months) and just as easy to enjoy.
Classic Basil Pesto
1/3 cup walnuts
2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (you can substitute ½ cup parsley for lighter flavor and a bolder green color)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Juice from ½ a lemon
Not necessary but adds flavor: Lightly toast walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Place the walnuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until coarsely chopped, about 10 seconds.
Add the basil leaves, salt, pepper and cayenne and process until mixture resembles a paste, about 1 minute.
With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly blended.
Add the Parmesan and lemon juice and process a minute more. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
Use pesto immediately or store in a tightly sealed jar or air-tight plastic container, covered with a thin layer of olive oil (this seals out the air and prevents the pesto from oxidizing and turning brown.) It will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.
Freeze it for winter! Pesto can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 6 months. You can also divide your prepared pesto into the compartments of an ice cube tray and freeze. Once it’s frozen, remove the pesto cubes from the tray and put in a sealable plastic bag or airtight container. You can add the defrosted pesto cubes to soups, pasta dishes, eggs, sandwiches, and potatoes. I use them all winter long!