Is there anything savory that screams summer more than fresh basil pesto? I think not. Make a few jars while there are ample supplies of fresh basil in your garden and keep it in the freezer to enjoy all year. Let me show you how easy it is to make.
By the way, because some of these ingredients are hard to measure by volume, I prefer to measure by weight, but I've included both volume and weight measurements in the recipe at the end of this post.
Start by toasting pine nuts and garlic in a dry skillet over medium heat. Stir and toss them frequently and keep an eye on them because they can easily burn. Some people have a hard time finding pine nuts (or pinoli as they're called in Italy) so walnut can be substituted, but I really prefer to stick with tradition and use pine nuts. The pesto can be made without nuts as well, but they add a subtle crunch.
Note the garlic clove still has its papery husk on for a bit of protection. The husk will brown, but the clove of garlic inside won't - the only thing you'll notice is the flavor will mellow a bit. You'll get all that garlicy goodness without the harsh bite you get from raw garlic.
When the toasted garlic clove is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the husk - it should slip right off.
This recipe will take less than a minute to make so have all your ingredients measured out and ready to go. Basil, olive oil, grated parmesan, toasted pine nuts, roasted garlic, and fresh lemon juice.
The culinary term for this technique is called "mise en place" which is French for "everything in its place".
The first ingredients to go into the food processor fitted with the chopping blade are the toasted garlic and pine nuts.
Pulse the machine on and off a few times until they're finely chopped.
Next in will be the basil.
And again, pulse the machine on and off a few times until things are finely chopped.
We're going to let the processor run more when we add the other ingredients so don't pulse too much. Let's take a peek at what it should look like at this point - mmmm. Wish you could smell my house right about now.
Has anyone marketed basil perfume?
Alrighty - in goes the cheese. Pulse once or twice just to combine.
Ready for the last 2 ingredients...
The olive oil...
And a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
I like my pesto a bit on the thick side, but by all means, add more olive oil if you like.
Fresh basil pesto stores beautifully in the fridge for several days or longer in the freezer. Just put it in an airtight container and cover with a layer of olive oil to prevent it from oxidizing (turning brown).
Ready for the fridge or freezer.
Our favorite way to enjoy basil pesto is to serve it over hot pasta. It goes particularly well with lemon pasta if you can find it (I posted a link below).
I added a little grated lemon zest too, not only for flavor, but because it looks so pretty.
Ok, now that you know how easy pesto is to make, go, make, and enjoy!
Fresh Basil Pesto
makes 1 cup
- 1 whole clove garlic, unpeeled
- 20 grams pine nuts (about 2 tablespoons)
- 40 grams fresh basil leaves (about 3 heaping cups of leaves)
- 80 grams grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese (about 2.8 ounces)
- 100 mls extra virgin olive oil (5.5 fluid ounces)
- squeeze of fresh lemon juice (5 mls, or about 1 teaspoon)
- In a small skillet over medium heat, toast pine nuts until golden brown and fragrant; remove from skillet to stop the cooking process.
- In the same small skillet over medium heat, toast the unpeeled clove or garlic until golden and fragrant; remove from skillet to stop the cooking process and when cool enough to handle, remove and discard the paper husk.
- In a large food processor, pulse the pine nuts and garlic until finely chopped.
- Add basil leaves and pulse until finely chopped.
- Add cheese, olive oil, and lemon juice; process until well mixed.
- Store in an airtight container with a layer of olive oil on top.