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Recipe: Basil Pesto

July 03, 2013

Nothing says summer like the smell and taste of basil.  I love to whip up a big batch of pesto that I can keep in the freezer for quick dinners and side dishes year-round.

I like to use toasted nuts in my pesto because it elevates the flavor.  To toast either pine nuts or walnuts, take a dry pan {no oil added} and place it over medium-low heat.  Add the nuts and stir frequently to prevent burning.  When you can smell them {you can also see the pine nuts getting brown}, they are done.  Remove them from the heat.  Allow to cool to room temp before adding them to the recipe.  Toasted nuts are also a great addition to salads.

Another option is to toast the peeled garlic in the same manner as the nuts for added flavor.  Allow the garlic to cool to room temp before adding it to the recipe.

Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts or toasted walnuts {see note above}
2-3 cloves garlic, minced {see note above}
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese

In the bowl of a food processor, process all the ingredients.  Turn it off, scrape down the sides, and pulse a few more times until the pesto is fully blended.

Can be covered with a Tablespoon layer of olive oil, and stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 3 days.  Alternatively, pour the pesto into an empty ice cube tray, freeze, and place the frozen pesto cubes in a freezer bag for up to 3 months.

What can you use pesto for?
  • replace pizza sauce with pesto for a big hit of flavor
  • pour pesto over warm pasta or gnocchi for a summer-flavored dinner or side dish
  • use pesto as the dressing {mix with champagne or white wine vinegar} in a pasta & veggie salad
  • use pesto as a dip for crackers
  • add a Tablespoon or two to hummus
  • pour over a block of cream cheese as a dip for crackers
  • make a pesto-cream sauce for meatballs {1 cup chicken broth, 1/2 cup cream, 1/4 cup pesto}
  • add a Tablespoon or two to minestrone soup
  • mix pesto with peas, pancetta and orzo 
  • add a teaspoon pesto to chicken or tuna salad 
  • toss bread that will be made into croutons with pesto prior to baking
  • make pesto-swirl bread by taking your favorite bread recipe, rolling it out prior to the final rise, spreading it with pesto, rolling it up and pinching the seams.  Place in the bread pan for the final rise prior to baking.
  • toss shrimp with pesto
  • add a Tablespoon or two to bean soup

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