Ah, pesto….is there any more luxurious way to preserve garden goodness than to make a batch of pesto? While it is great to eat immediately, the true luxury comes in enjoying that basil flavor in the dead of winter. While we used the freeze-in-an-ice-cube-tray-and-defrost-a-cube-at-a-time method for several years, we had good success storing a quart in the fridge last winter. When we dipped into it (with a scrupulously clean spoon!), we made sure to smooth the surface and cover it with a fresh layer of olive oil each time before popping it back into the fridge.
Pesto also makes me think of two especially good friends. One provided me with a steady supply of huge beautiful basil bouquets for several summers before my husband and I started to grow our own. The other friend nearly put me into physical therapy many years ago when I picked her up from the airport after she returned from 3 weeks in Italy. She handed me her carry-on bag and I stumbled from the weight. The bag was only medium-sized, but it was FILLED with small jars of Genovese pesto (it is the only time I’ve rented a luggage trolley at the airport!). This was back in the day when you still met arrivals at the gate and you didn’t have to cram your carry-on liquids into small plastic bags and you could travel with a bulging carry-on bag without fellow passengers glaring at you, so you know how long ago that was.
In the nearly 20 years since, I’ve discovered this awesome pesto recipe. Use it before the basil stops growing and I guarantee that you’ll really enjoy the pesto this winter! (Since basil leaves are more photogenic than pesto, I hope you enjoy this shot of our latest harvest.)
Easy Pesto – about 5 cups
6 oz. Parmesan, grated (freshly grated by you is the best)
8 garlic cloves, peeled
4 C tightly packed basil leaves, washed and spun dry (not necessary if harvesting from the tops of the plants and the leaves aren’t gritty)
3 C walnut pieces (yes, I know that pine nuts are traditional, but they are also EXPENSIVE and I guarantee that you won’t miss ’em)
1 t salt
2 C olive oil
If necessary, grate the Parmesan cheese. Change the blade in the processor and drop garlic cloves through the chute of a food processor with the cutting blade running. Turn off when the garlic is minced, about 10 seconds. Put basil in the food processor. Put walnuts and salt on top of the leaves. Process until finely chopped, but still a bit rough. With the machine going, slowly pour in the olive oil. Stop the machine and add Parmesan. Process briefly to mix. Taste and adjust seasonings. Enjoy with veggie burgers, raw veggies, bread or crackers or heat to eat with cooked pasta or hot, cooked vegetables.