I planted basil in early June, and have harvested it for so many things this summer — but now, it’s beginning to bolt, so it’s time to harvest it and put away a bit of summer, to enjoy when the weather turns chilly. I usually turn basil into pesto, and freeze it. If I freeze in a zipper bag, I press it flat and squeeze out the air, to help maintain the beautiful green color. If I freezings it in a small tub, I smooth the top and cover it with a thin layer of olive oil, to block out air. Either works fine, but the bagged stuff is easy to break off a chunk is you only need a little.
Pesto, in Italian, means paste. There are so many different pestos, but my all time favorite is Pesto alla Genoese — the green pesto that most of us know. this is a recipe for pesto that I learned in Italy, and I love to share it because it is so very versatile. So, here’s a great way to enjoy the summer bounty, or store it for cooler weather, when you long for the sunny days of summer!
Pesto Alla Genoese
Pesto is Italian for paste; this pesto is the one we most frequently think of when someone says pesto and it has a lot of uses.
- 1 - 1/2 cups firmly packed fresh basil
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Romano
- 2 cloves garlic peeled
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, or combination
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup olive oil or less, depending on the consistency desired
Place basil or other leaves, cheese, garlic, nuts and salt in blender or food processor. Process with on/off turns until well blended, scrape down sides of container.
Slowly add the olive oil (you may not need as much as called for, and can substitute with half water if needed), the finished product should resemble soft butter.
Makes about 1 cup pesto. Freezes well.
So, what are you going to do with your pesto?
Stir it into mayonnaise for a great spread … Or use this as the dressing for potato salad ...
Dollop it on top of a block of cream cheese, and serve with crackers; pipe or spoon it into cherry tomato halves or cooked new potato halves for a great appetizer ...
Stir it into your hummus for a different flavor profile ...
While the pasta cooks, heat the pesto in a skillet with a bit of hot water from the pasta pot or some heavy cream. Toss in the hot pasta and ALORA! It's dinner!
Shake it up with a bit more olive oil to thin it to a dressing consistency, and drizzle a bit over grilled fish.
And a bit of advice: Basil grows well here in the Northwest, but don’t be tempted to plant outside until nighttime temperatures no longer dip below 50°F. Be sure to plant it in a sunny spot with good drainage, and you will have basil until the first frost. Enjoy!