Basil Pesto – Homemade

Basil Pesto with tomato and mozzarella

Basil Pesto with tomato and mozzarella

One of the great gifts of summer is basil pesto. Sure you can have it all year long, especially if you live in a perpetually warm climate, but for me it’s a summer thing.

We grow enough basil in the garden to feed the pesto demands and in this way we can have pesto anytime, which is to say I eat on a daily basis. Growing your own basil is easy and can be done almost anywhere. Luckily you can find fresh basil in most supermarkets. However, if you buy a couple of short basil plants from your local garden shop you can have basil all summer long.

It’s very versatile and does far more than just dress pasta. It’s a great base for a salad dressing, fabulous on tomatoes (or with fresh mozzarella for a twist on the caprese), spread on toasted bread, in soup, mixing into mashed potatoes (this is awesome), and so on. The uses for fresh basil pesto are endless so keep some in the fridge.

Pesto is native to Genoa, Italy but it has been wisely adopted by much of the world. It’s very simple to construct. It no doubt owes its inspiration to the flavoring pastes created in ancient Rome that frequently consisted of fresh herbs with garlic, salt, cheese, oil, and vinegar.

As is the case with any old and classic recipe there are many variations and a fair share of purists. The first thing that the purists will tell you is that it must by made in the classic moral and pestle. It’s great when made like this but nearly as good when made in the food processor. With that said I most often make it in the food processor favoring the ease and speed. I don’t want any barriers to having fresh pesto in the fridge.

Another thing that I tend to do that rattles the purists is to add lemon juice. There are two reasons I make this addition. First, I love the taste of fresh lemon juice and it marries well with the other ingredients. Second, the lemon juice makes it possible for me to make a batch and keep it in the fridge for days without it getting discolored or stale. Of course the best way to ensure that the pesto will be fresh longer is to use the freshest basil possible. This is why we grow our own basil and why it’s such a summertime treat.

I could go on and on about basil pesto but I would rather eat it so I’ll share my recipe and sign off for now.

  • 4 cups Fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup Pine nuts
  • 3 Garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup Freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino or a blend of the two
  • 2/3 cup Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sea salt
  • Juice of half a lemon (not traditional)

Add all ingredients save the cheese to the bowl of the food processor. Close and pulse until you get the desired consistency. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the cheese.

What Do You Drink with Pesto?

The bright, raw flavors love crisp and vibrant beverages. In the wine world go with Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Soave, Vouvray, or Albariño. There are a wide range of beers that will work but I really love Weissbier and Saison. Pairing cocktails is easy, go with anything with a prominent citrus profile.

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