The Joy of Making Pesto

The Joy of Making Pesto

I LOVE pesto! It’s a simple ingredient that can add complexity to so many ordinary dishes.

When I make pesto, I make a LOT so I can freeze some. You’ll need:

  • Garlic (I use 3–6 cloves, but it depends on your taste; start low and add more for taste.)
  • Basil (I use 2-3 of those 4 oz. containers from the produce department.)
  • Olive oil
  • Pine nuts
  • Shredded parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt
  • A food processor or “mini-prep” food processor

You’ll notice that I didn’t put exact amounts of anything. That’s because I think pesto-making is more of an art than a science. In fact, every time I make pesto, it’s a little different, and I just keep adjusting until it tastes “right.”

I always start by peeling 3–4 cloves of garlic and tossing them in the food processor. Sometimes 5–6 cloves if I’m feeling very spicy. Then I take the leaves off the basil and press them tightly into the bowl of the food processor. Next I pile in about a half cup of pine nuts and half cup cheese, some salt, and cover with some olive oil.

Then I put on the lid of the food processor and pulse if for a few seconds. I open the lid and give the leaves a stir to move the big leaves down toward the blades, close it, and pulse it some more. If it seems to need more oil, I add oil.

I keep doing this—making adjustments until it seems the right consistency, adding cheese and pine nuts as I see fit. Once it seems finished, I make a final check for flavor and adjust cheese, pine nuts, salt, and oil. Others in the house sometimes get to weigh in with their opinions too.

When it’s just right, I scoop the green paste into containers for storage. If they’ll be frozen, they go into small, single-serving containers or ice cube trays. Larger containers are for the refrigerator. Regardless of the size, once the container is filled, it’s tapped solidly on the counter so the pesto settles and there aren’t any air bubbles left.

Once the pesto is settled, I pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top to keep air from entering and turning the surface dark. Then into the refrigerator or freezer it goes. (The ones that are frozen can be popped out of their containers and into a large freezer bag once frozen.)

The uses are endless! Pesto makes a great rub/sauce for chicken, fish, and pork. It pairs naturally with tomatoes and mozzarella. My favorite appetizer is Parmesan crisps with pesto, heirloom tomato, and bacon bits. Or mix it with a bit of chévre (soft goat cheese) for an amazing veggie dip!