Pesto is easy to make, can be tweaked using different nuts, cheeses and even other herbs or greens instead of basil. It is an AMAZING sauce to have in the fridge, because it can enhance so many meals, from eggs, to sandwiches, to snacks (on top of a cracker) to flour and zucchini pasta, to pizza and more. I only wish I had planted more basil this season because the recipe requires a lot of it, and I’d love to have frozen pesto all winter long.
One of my favorite lunches this summer has been hearty greens (either micro greens–mustard, mizuna, wild arugula, or kale), raw red onion, slow scrambled, farm-fresh eggs, and a drizzle of balsamic. A dollop or two of pesto on top makes this meal heartier, richer in flavor, and completely satisfying yet healthy. Plus, this meal takes minutes to prepare, especially if you have greens washed and ready to go.
I also used this pesto as a sauce for zucchini pasta. Using the grater insert for my mandolin, I made strips from zucchini so that it was the size of angel hair pasta (make sure to cut out the seeds of the zucchini first because that middle part is not substantial enough to hold a sauce–and watery). I tossed the zucchini strips with the pesto, swirled my fork into it, and served mounds of it topped with shreds of parmesan cheese as a first course for lunch. It was healthy and scrumptious.
4 cups picked basil (any variety or mixed varieties but I wouldn’t use purple or lemon)
2-4 garlic cloves
1/3 pine nuts (or pistachios or walnuts)
small block of parmesan cheese
Combine basil and olive oil in a food processor. Process until well blended and paste like. Add another hearty swig of olive oil.
In the meantime, heat the oven to 300 degrees. Toss pine nuts with olive oil, salt and pepper (make them slightly saltier than you would think, because the saltiness diminishes as they are toasted). Spread the nuts onto a cookie sheet covered with tinfoil, and bake for 5-7 minutes or until the nuts get color and scent but are not dark. Let cool slightly.
Add 2 garlic cloves to processor and process until incorporated with no chunks. If you like a real garlicky taste, add another clove or 2, tasting after each.
Pour nuts into processor, and pulse a few times until nuts are ground small but still chunky. I like the texture this adds to the pesto, and the visibility of ingredients that it created.
Pour the mixture into a bowl. Grate parmesan cheese into it, about 1/3 cup, depending on what you like for taste. (Remember, you can always shave extra parmesan cheese on top of pesto pasta. The cheese adds more to the nutty taste of the pesto than to a cheesiness). Incorporate the cheese using a wooden spoon.
]The mixture will be thicker now, and you will want to add olive oil so that there is a little layer of oil atop the pesto. This helps it from oxidizing while being stored and makes the pesto spread further.
Add salt and pepper to taste, or store in a jar in the fridge or freeze.
Happy summer days of eating!