Pesto is an aromatic herb mixture; often used as a simple sauce for pasta, a spread for sandwiches or Panino, as a flavor punch to soups, as a stuffing for vegetables and to improve taste of roasted meat. The possibilities to use this wonderful dish are practically endless.
I would like to start with the simplest and probably the most popular of pestos: basil pesto.
Like all pestos, this recipe is a combination of fragrant fresh blanched herbs, garlic (often roasted or toasted to improve the taste, raw garlic is too harsh for this dish), oil, and cheese. You can also add pine nuts, or almonds. Because of nut allergies in my family, I always avoid tree nuts, but use it and it will improve your pesto.
3 cups of packed fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons toasted garlic
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons of pine nuts (if desired)
Salt and pepper
It is good to blanch basil before processing; it will ensure the nice, bright green color of the pesto. To blanch basil (or any other herb) you will need a pot of boiling water; plunge the basil in the boiling water for 4 to 5 seconds, and immediately remove and plunge in an ice water bath. This will stop basil from further cooking. Dry basil between sheets of paper towel, remove as much water as possible.
So, when you have your blanched basil, and lightly toasted the garlic (peel and slice garlic, and toast it in a medium-high pre-heated pan, lightly covered with olive oil, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown), place all ingredients in a blender, except cheese (basil, garlic, olive oil),and process until smooth. (At this point, you can freeze pesto, if you make a big batch of it, it will stay good for three months. Mix in parmesan cheese after defrosting).
Remove basil mixture and mix in parmesan cheese.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Pesto will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to five days.
This recipe is inspired by a recipe found in Cooking One On One by John Ash.