Pesto is a super-fast, super-tasty sauce that requires no cooking. It’s mostly used for pasta, but it has a wide range of uses including salad, sandwich spread, and even on chicken breasts or toast.
There is no one “right” recipe for pesto; you can vary it depending upon how you prefer to balance the various flavors: basil, garlic, salt, and nuts.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups of pesto. Time required: 10 minutes.
- 1/2 cup olive oil Olive oil is a good choice here because the recipe requires no cooking, so the flavor comes through well.
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp. pine nuts
- Pinch of salt
- 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Combine the olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, and salt in a blender, and blend on low until nuts and garlic are finely minced.
Add basil leaves, and pulse until well-combined into oil mixture.
Add parmesan cheese and blend on low until a consistent texture.
Season to taste.
Tips and suggestions:
- You can substitute other leafy greens for the basil, including spinach.
- Pine nuts can be very expensive. If you’re looking for a cheaper option, substitute walnuts (or mix pine nuts and walnuts).
- Vary the amount of garlic (I like my pesto with at least four cloves, but the garlic flavor is not subtle at that point)
- Go easy on the added salt. Parmesan cheese contributes a lot of saltiness, so it’s very easy to end up with pesto that is too salty if you add much more salt on top of it.
- Pesto freezes super well and will keep for months in the freezer. I make large batches during the summer when fresh basil is easy and cheap to come by and then consume it over the winter.
- Pesto is best when fresh, but will keep for several days in the refrigerator. It will discolor a bit (turning darker green) when exposed to air, so a jar in the fridge, even if kept tightly-lidded, will often end up with a darker layer at the top. That doesn’t mean it’s gone bad, and if it bothers you can can just stir it up before using it.