I love when basil is in season. Instead of the puny grocery store offerings, I get to come home with something I would describe more like a ‘bouquet’ of basil. As I walk home from the market, the basil wafts out of my canvas bag and I try to decide what exactly to do with all of this basil. Unless I’m feeling adventurous, there is really only one answer that will suffice. PESTO.
That’s really a joke. I use basil in a variety of ways, but I always come back to this simple yet incredible condiment. It’s adds character to any tomato sauce, a great dressing for white bean salad, a punchy spread for sandwiches… and, of course, incredible when tossed with pasta.
Making pesto became an automatic reflex once I got my food processor. I used to do it by hand, and tried to do it with my mini-processor-named-after-a-gun-accessory (the less I say about this pesto, the better). The food processor took the elbow grease out of the task, and made it more likely that I would randomly decide to make a fresh batch of pesto. You don’t absolutely NEED to use a food processor, but it will make the whole process much easier.
Today, I am posting a basic basil pesto. This fall, I plan to post some variations on pesto that I think you may enjoy.
Basic Basil Pesto
This makes between 1 1/2 and 2 cups of pesto.
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cups of fresh basil, washed, drained and roughly chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped (about 2 Tablespoons)
- 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more to serve where appropriate*
- 2 Tablespoons pine nuts, plus more to serve where appropriate*
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus
- freshly ground black pepper
- chile flakes (optional)
- In a food processor, add 2 Tablespoons the olive oil, garlic, salt and a handful of the basil. Pulse until the basil is chopped and all ingredients begin to incorporate.
- Add another couple of handfuls of basil, without overfilling the food processor. Pulse a few times; just enough to chop the basil. Repeat until all of the basil has been added. Scrape down the sides of the food processor bowl in between, as needed.
- Add 3/4c of the grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and 2 Tablespoons of the pine nuts. Blend on low speed until the mixture comes together and begins to look like pesto. It shouldn’t be puréed – you should still be able to see the various ingredients. Think finely minced, and incorporated. It should be a chunky paste, and not a thin or wet sauce.
- Remove the mixture from the food processor, and stir in the remaining cheese, pepper and chile flakes (if using). Taste, and add more salt if necessary.
*Extra Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and pine nuts make a fantastic garnish for a dinner dish, such as pasta or white bean salad. Obviously, this is not necessary if you are using the pesto on a sandwich.