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!