There are certain moments in life when you just stop and recognize that God loves to give good gifts to His children. Enjoying the smells filling my kitchen while making up a batch of this Fresh Basil Pesto was one of those times…. oh, those glorious smells: basil, extra virgin olive oil, garlic…
The garden has begun to explode with produce, and thankfully basil is one of the herbs that is ready to be picked!! In the winter it just kills me paying a couple dollars for a little package of fresh basil at the grocery store, when for $.99 I can get a pack of seeds and be picking bowls full all summer long! I’ve found it’s been easy to grow the last few summers as long as it has water and plenty of sun. If you aren’t growing your own basil, go back in time and plant some. Sorry, that wasn’t very helpful. You should be able to purchase bundles of it at your local farmers’ market. Or if you live close to me, stop by and I’ll fix you up!
Most basil pesto recipes that I’ve seen usually include pine nuts and parmesan cheese – delicious ingredients, but expensive. I’ve found that using walnuts and Romano cheese provides the same amazing flavor at a fraction of the cost. (Romano was about $4 per pound cheaper than parmesan.) I purchased the mega block of cheese pictured below at Costco, but since you only 1/2 cup of grated cheese per recipe, Aldi is a really affordable place to get it.
Pesto doesn’t include any cooking (just blending!) so it’s a great kitchen activity for a hot summer day. To make it, first gather your ingredients:
- Fresh Basil
- Romano Cheese
- Olive Oil
- Fresh Garlic
- Salt & Pepper
Throw the basil, garlic cloves, and walnuts into the blender (or food processor if you have one), then pour the olive oil over it. Save out a bit of oil if you plan to freeze any pesto.
Blend, pulsing and stopping to mix as necessary. When the mixture is well blended, add your cheese and salt and pepper. Blend until mixed. (Some recipes recommend leaving the cheese out if you’re freezing the pesto, and then just adding it in when you go to use it. I’ve never had any trouble with the pesto thawing, so I’d rather do all the work up front and just take my chances at freezing with cheese!)Done. I kid you not, that’s it! Pour your pesto into jars and refrigerate, freeze, or use immediately! If you’re freezing it, coat the top with a little olive oil to keep it from turning dark green. When you’re ready to use it, just thaw, give it a stir, and enjoy!
I am using 8 ounce jars in the photos below. I’d probably prefer 4oz jars just to make it go further through the winter, but these are what I already had on hand.
- 2 cups packed basil leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup fresh grated Romano cheese
- salt & pepper, to taste
- Combine the basil, garlic, and walnuts in a blender or food processor. Add oil, and blend until smooth.
- And the cheese, salt, and pepper, and blend until combined.
- Pour into jars. Cover top with a layer of olive oil.
- Freeze, refrigerate, or enjoy immediately!
Adapted from "Basil Pesto" foodnetwork.com
I made a double batch which allowed me to freeze a couple jars and used some right away. We used it as a marinade for grilled chicken; and made a creamy pesto pasta by pouring it over pasta, and just adding milk and more Romano. Leftover chicken was chopped and used a pizza topping the following day.
There are endless possibilities for how this amazing sauce can be used! To get some inspiration I created a Pinterest board called The Best o’ Pesto. Check it out for some yummy inspiration, and comment below with your favorite ways to enjoy Fresh Basil Pesto!