If there is ever a time to make fresh pesto, it's now. Fresh basil is abundant at green markets and grocery stores everywhere, and better yet--it's cheap. Fresh pesto simply screams summer to me. Plus, it's very easy (and quick) to make, and it's one of those dishes that's sure to impress just about anybody you serve it to. Confession: I get pretty impressed with myself every time I make it.
Okay, so here's what you do. Go get yourself some basil. Grab some from your garden, green market or grocery store. You're going to need a lot of it. Note: pesto (without cheese) freezes well. If you'd like to freeze your pesto for use later in the year, simply blanch the basil leaves before putting them in the food processor, continue with the recipe and freeze the finished product in jars).
Grate some parmesan cheese--you'll need it a bit later in the recipe. Toast some pine nuts. During this step, resist all urges to turn your back. You will burn the pine nuts if you don't give them your full attention. While you work, sing along to your favorite music and think about how much you love summer.
The next step is very easy. Throw everything except the cheese into the food processor. Combine it well. Then toss it with some pasta (I like it best with Penne noodles), cheese and vegetables. Or freeze it. Or use it on a salad. Most of all, enjoy this pesto along with the last, ever so sweet, days of summer.
Adapted by Alexandra Rogers, from Mark Bittman
Ingredients4 cups basil leaves, washed and dried
4 medium cloves of garlic
4 Tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups of parmesan
In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, combine basil, garlic and pine nuts. Scrape sides of the food processor with a rubber scraper and make sure ingredients are well combined and chopped. Add the olive oil slowly with food processor running.
It's likely you won't use the full 1/2 cup of olive oil, so add enough to get the pesto to a consistency that is looser than paste but not overly oily. I usually use about 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons olive oil in total.
Turn off the food processor and dip a spoon into the pesto. Now, taste the pesto! It will taste like it needs salt. At this point, add a sprinkling of salt (far less than a teaspoon) and combine. This is the "salt to taste" step that can be somewhat confusing. When making pesto, be sure to under salt a bit since you'll be adding salty cheese later in the dish that will carry those flavors through all the way.
Once salt is added, your pesto is ready to use. Toss with a pasta of your choice and add the parmesan cheese until thoroughly combined and serve. This makes enough pesto to cover 4-5 cups of pasta.
You can also use the pesto as part of salad dressings or over vegetables. More specific serving suggestions will be coming your way soon!