Basil pesto is a treat and the best way to enjoy basil. And I’m talking about homemade pesto sauce, not the shop bought one form the jar. The fusion of flavours in it is a marriage made in heaven.
Basil is an annual herb that likes warmth. It’s easy to grow your own in the garden during the summer or in pots indoors all year round. Pick tender leaves regularly to prevent it from flowering and stems getting woody. Leave one plant to mature and collect the seeds for the next season. Alternatively, buy fresh basil in shops.
Pesto can be made using mortar and pestle, chopped with a herb cutting knife (takes a while) or in a food processor.
To make fresh basil pesto sauce you’ll need following ingredients:
- A large bunch of basil (about 3-4 cups of leaves)
- 3 cloves of garlic (add more or less depending on taste)
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup roasted pine nuts (cashews, macadamia nuts or roasted almonds)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino
- 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
- Sea salt
Use the quantities as a guide only and don’t be afraid to experiment. To be honest, I don’t follow the recipe anymore. I just pick some basil leaves from the garden, add few cloves of garlic, salt, nuts, Parmesan or Pecorino cheese and some good olive oil. Traditionally, pine nuts are used in basil pesto recipe, but I often substitute macadamia or cashew nuts for pine nuts.
Here is a step by step guide on how to make your own basil pesto sauce:
1. Pick the leaves and wash them in a bowl of water. Dry immediately in a colander and then on a clean tea towel. The leaves will turn black if left in the water for too long.
2. Put basil leaves, nuts of your choice and salt into food processor. Blend it until finely chopped.
3. Add grated Parmesan and crushed garlic. Whiz it until combined.
4. Add olive oil and process again. For a smooth pesto, run the food processor for a bit longer.
Basil pesto can be kept in the fridge for up to a week. At my place it disappears mysteriously after a couple of days ! Pesto is suitable for freezing.
Some ideas for basil pesto use:
- spread it on a fresh crusty bread
- great tossed with pasta
- wonderful with tomatoes
- top bruschetta with pesto
- great alternative to butter or margarine in sandwiches
- substitute basil pesto for tomato sauce on homemade pizza:
- add pesto to Béchamel sauce when making lasagna
- serve with grilled fish, chicken or mushrooms.
2010 Basil Pesto Update
This year most of our basil is coming from our container garden at home and from only two plants:
As you can see one is green and the other – purple! Nevertheless, purple pesto has the same great taste. I really love this purple variety. Its gorgeous, strong colour is great contrast to green leaves and makes an unusual garnish.
So far, I’ve made about 4 batches of pesto from these two basil plants and they still keep on growing thanks to a sunny spot and homemade compost.
I have not attempted to make purple basil pesto yet. I’ll give it a shot next time I make pesto to see the colour. The pesto from green and purple leaves is still green (a bit darker green). You can see small purple freckles:
Basil is one of the herbs that doesn’t like cold, so make the most of it while you have it in the garden. For the winter days, if you have oversupply of basil, freeze some. I usually put them into smaller containers or in an ice cube tray.
The best way to enjoy freshly made basil pesto is to put it on some crusty homemade bread. Our daughter gives this batch of homemade pesto thumbs up!
I do hope this guide has been useful, please leave a comment below if you have any thoughts or tips on how to make basil pesto sauce.