Step 1: Obtain a freakish quantity of basil. It just so happens that my CSA is pulling out a lot of basil next week to make room for a final push of spinach and various lettuces, so this part was easy for me. I recommend going to a local farm for yours too. I may have picked too much. Yeah, I definitely picked too much. I picked three different kinds- Italian, lemon, and Thai. What you see in the photo below (lemon basil) is less than a quarter of the total picked.
Step 2: Toast the nuts. Traditionally pesto is made with pine nuts, but they are so expensive that it’s becoming common to use walnuts instead. I used a mix of the two, because my awesome beau bought them for me, not realizing how special they are. I tried one batch with the toasting and one without the toasting, and I regretted the non-toasting, but it was too late. It’s best to toast in a pan that does NOT have a non-stick coating. You can also do it under the broiler in the oven, or a toaster oven.
Step 3: Get yourself lots of garlic. Pound it with the knife and take off the peel. No need to chop it up- the food processor will do all the work.
Step 4: Take all of those basil leaves and blanch them. A chef friend of mine recommended adding 1 part spinach to 3 parts basil, to help it stay green, and hey those vitamins can’t be bad for you either. I’m no expert on blanching, but here’s what I did: pull off all of the leaves, put them in a mesh strainer (see below) dunk them in the boiling water for 30 sec to a minute (or until you get bored, like me), then dunk the strainer, leaves and all, into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Drain thoroughly (I squeezed the water out, again, because I’m impatient).
Step 5: Chuck everything in the food processor. I’d recommend pulsing the leaves a bit first, then add the nuts, pulse, then add the garlic, pulse. Next, with the blade spinning, drizzle the olive oil in. When everything is incorporated, add the cheese and give it another pulse. I like to do it this way because I like the cheese to be big and chunky when I bite into it. You’re going to want to put some salt and pepper in there at some point, probably at multiple points, tasting it until you get it right. Just remember, you can always add more, but you can NOT take it out! Add a little at a time.
Step 7 : Taste, and adjust the flavors to your liking. More garlic? Toss it in! More nuts? Toast some more and toss them in too. Don’t skip the toasting. It really makes a difference in the flavor and doesn’t take that long.
Ste[ 7: Store your yummy, vibrantly green pesto. I made enough to freeze and have always heard that ice cube trays are a convenient way to go, so that’s what I did with most of it. I wrapped them in plastic wrap to keep the color and avoid freezer burn. If you don’t want to freeze it, just put it in your favorite storage container and pop it in the fridge. Or, boil up some pasta and pour it on! We ate some right away, though I have to admit I was already pretty full from all the tasting.
Ingredients: Think of these as a guideline, not hard and fast rules.
3 cups (packed) basil
1 cup (packed) spinach
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup walnuts
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper