I love winter, but I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of spring and summer. As I write, the views outside are a wintry wonderland, but I don't think spring is too far off. I am no gardener, but I absolutely love fresh produce and herbs from local farmers’ markets. When it comes to herbs, fresh basil is my all-time favorite! Though there are countless ways to use fresh basil, I love making homemade pesto.
The idea of preparing homemade pesto used to seem foreign to me. I was intimidated by the ingredients and thought pesto was complicated to prepare. Well, I am happy to admit that I was wrong! With the help of a food processor and a few high-quality ingredients, you will have an amazing final product. The ingredients for pesto are simple: lots of basil, fresh garlic, pine nuts (or walnuts), parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and olive oil. You can substitute walnuts for pine nuts because walnuts impart a similar flavor to pesto. Food processors are recommended. I have never tried preparing pesto in a blender, but I would think the pulse setting would also work...
To those who do not have a food processor or would rather purchase a commercial product, I recommend Classico brand pesto. I have no affiliations with this brand, but I think it is an excellent product. It may not be available at all retail locations, but I have always been able to find this product at Target. However, if you have the tools and ingredients, homemade pesto is the way to go. It will win you over in flavor, and an added bonus is that it is rewarding to make.
How do I use my homemade pesto? My favorite is to mix the pesto with pasta, specifically cheese tortellini with sautéed peppers, onions, and chicken. If you want to make a creamy pasta dish, add a splash or two of heavy cream to the mix and top with lots of your favorite grated cheese right before serving! Pesto is also a great substitute for pizza sauce, sandwich spread, mix-in for hummus or salad dressing, or topping for chicken or veggies!
Next time you’re hosting guests or just want a fun kitchen project, make your own pesto! The recipe follows (and more photos)!
2 cups fresh basil, loosely packed
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts
½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded or shaved
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a food processor, add the basil, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. Pulse until the fresh basil is in small pieces. Pour in the olive oil and pulse until combined. Season with salt and pepper.
Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Leftovers may also be frozen.