There was a time in my life when I refused to eat pasta with "red sauce." I would only eat pasta with pesto. While I have become much less picky about my pasta sauces as I've, um,... matured, I still think pesto is delicious. I would eat it with a spoon if I could get away with it.
Pesto is usually quite expensive to buy at the grocery store. As you can imagine, I've often entertained the idea of making my own. The problem is that it is also expensive to make. Pine nuts are expensive. Basil can be expensive. Good olive oil is expensive. Good Parmesan is expensive. It can add up. And while not exactly cheap, pesto is less expensive to buy at Costco than to make from scratch. Or so I have told myself.
So, all my good intentions of making my own pesto over the last couple of years have been thwarted. Until now. I have recently found out that you can make pesto with nearly any kind of nut--not just pine nuts. Break through! I usually have pecans and other nuts on hand, so that is no extra cost. I used a pecan and walnut combo in this version, but feel free to substitute whatever kind of nut you have available. I have heard that almond pesto is also very good.
Also, it is prime basil season out there, at least up here in Portland. I was at the farmer's market and I could not get away from the sweet, herb-y smell of fresh basil. One stand was selling three bunches of basil for $5. (The equivalent of at least 5 cups of basil leaves.) I couldn't resist--especially because I just happened to have some Parmesan in the fridge. I was pesto ready and I couldn't deny it any longer.
I first tried to use the Magic Bullet that I had recently received as a gift, but no dice. I whipped out my mini-food processor and turned my basil into pesto in no time. This is an easy and quick recipe that is very flexible. I tried to use as little olive oil as possible, since I find the store-bought kind too greasy. That is the added benefit of making your own--you get to make it precisely the way you like it.
I used a cup of this freshly made pesto to make a pesto potato salad for a Fourth of July barbecue, which I will post shortly. I have a ton of pesto left, too, so I see some pesto pasta in my near future. For the quantity of pesto this makes, it definitely ended up being cheaper than buying it at the grocery store in the end. Worth it, for sure.
- 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
- 2/3 cup to 1 1/2 cup olive oil, depending on your preference (use olive oil that tastes good on it's own)
- 1 cup toasted nuts, chopped (walnuts, pecans, almonds, pine nuts)
- 5 or more cloves of garlic, or more to taste
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- Put basil, olive oil, nuts and garlic and salt in food processor.
- Blend until combined
- Add Parmesan and blend for a few seconds until incorporated.
Makes at least 2 cups. You can easily half this recipe for a smaller batch.
To store: cover with surface completely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to a week.
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