Sunday, June 24, 2012

Presto Pesto!

I love pesto, and I would make it all the time if I had a reliable source of fresh basil around. Unfortunately, for years the best I could find was the little .75-ounce packages in the fresh herbs section for like 3 bucks. But since I've moved I found a 4oz container for 3 bucks--plenty for the Crispy Baked Caprese Chicken with Bacon, the [Almost] Margherita Pizza, and now pesto!

One of the best things about pesto is that it's an easy mix/blend recipe with no cooking involved. Very quick!

Disclaimer: I make my pesto so that it is "spreadable" to go on crackers, bagels with cream cheese, pizza crust, whatever....and not liquidy like a sauce for pasta. All you would need to do is add more oil for a pesto sauce rather than a pesto spread. 

My personal recipe is a little different than traditional recipes. I'll mark measurements and weights for ingredients, so pick whatever method you prefer to use. 


About 1.5 ounces (2 cups, packed) basil leaves
1 ounce (a heaping 1/4 -almost 1/3- cup) of parmesan cheese
1 ounce (1/4 cup) of walnuts
3 cloves (1 1/2 teaspoons minced) garlic
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
  • Makes about 5 ounces of pesto (or 145 grams)

Combine in a food processor and blend away! 

Scrape the sides with a spatula as needed. I like to let it sit overnight to let it marinate with the flavors and the basil leaves will soften that way. My favorite way to snack with pesto is to spread it on whole grain crackers--when I first discovered the joys of pesto, I got hooked eating them with Kashi Original 7 Grain Crackers.

  • Pesto is typically made with pine nuts, not walnuts. But I don't like pine nuts. And you could always omit the nuts if you're allergic.
  • It is not normally made with balsamic vinegar, but I love the stuff. I know someone who would put in lemon juice instead for some acidity, but many recipes don't include anything of the sort. 
  • You can always use romano cheese instead, or probably asiago. 
  • Like I said above, it is often made with a lot of oil to make it into a sauce. My pesto is made with less to make it thick. 
So green!

Just so you can see the difference (and have a different recipe, if you like), my package of basil came with a recipe for pesto.


4 oz fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup graded Romano or Parmesan cheese (lite cheeses can also be used)
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 to 6 cloves fresh garlic, depending on size and to your taste
1/4 cup pine nuts

In a food processor, add the cheese and basil leaves. Add olive oil, followed by garlic and pine nuts. Allow each ingredient to blend smoothly with the preceding ones. Let stand for one hour. Refrigerate or freeze your pesto sauce. Use with pasta, salads, meat, fish, and poultry."

They don't use much oil--even less than I used, so I think theirs would be pretty thick which really surprises me. The first pesto recipe I ever worked off of called for 1/2 cup of oil or more, which is a ton in my opinion.

After I was done, I thought I'd attempt to make some basil oil with the leftover stems. I didn't know if this was usually done, so I just winged it. I cut up the basil into tiny pieces and filled the bottle with extra virgin olive oil. I'll let it marinate for a few weeks and then test it--if all tastes good (can we say bread dipping?!), then I'll sieve the oil and just put it back in the bottle. Apparently this is something that  has been done before (see How to Make Basil Dipping Oil) and you can just put the whole stems in the oil just the same, but I didn't know if that would be good enough so I cut them up into little pieces. No matter--I'm sure it'll turn out well!


I hope someone gives it a try and enjoys the recipe as much as I do!