Basil is the star ingredient in this sweet and spicy recipe. This easy pesto is very versatile. Use it as is or, as a base, to build your own recipe. With just 6 ingredients you will have fresh, homemade pesto in just 5 minutes.
Pesto is delicious on hot and cold pasta, mix it with gnocci or layered it into lasagna. Put it in hot rice, steamed vegetables, or throw it on top a baked potato for a quick side dish. At lunch, add a spoonful to soup, a salad or as a spread on a turkey sandwich. For a quick, fresh appetizer stuff cherry tomatoes or small peppers- it also pairs nicely with focaccia bread, cheese, shrimp, or olives, for all types of appetizers.
Not all pesto recipes use basil. Pesto can be made using all kinds of ingredients including mushrooms, parsley, spinach, kale or any combination you choose. It is definitely my favorite condiment, no matter the recipe. I love the versatility and delicious taste. It is aromatic and reminiscent of warm days and home cooked meals.
Traditional pesto is made in a mortar and pestle, in which the raw ingredients get ground by hand. I am not that dedicated. So, thank God for the person that invented the food processor- because in just 5 minutes, a food processor can produce ready to eat pesto!
Here’s the recipe:
8 ounces spinach
1 bunch basil, stems removed
1 head garlic, cloves skinned
½ lemon, juiced
½ cup pine nuts
1-1 ½ cups olive oil
¼ cup Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Combine garlic cloves, lemon juice and nuts in the food processor, pulse until garlic and nuts are chopped. Add spinach and basil and process until everything is finely chopped. With the machine running, slowly pour the oil in a steady stream through the feed tube and process until smooth. Mix in shredded Parmesan cheese before serving. Use immediately.
If not used immediately, or all at once, store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To prevent the discoloration of the ingredients, either cover completely with a layer of olive oil or cover with plastic wrap, press the plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pesto to help preserve the bright color.
Do not add cheese. Transfer pesto into a small freezer proof jar, plastic container or bag and store in the freezer for 9-12 months. Defrost in the refrigerator than mix in shredded Parmesan cheese just before it is served. .
Make frozen pesto cubes by filling the slots of an ice cube tray with pesto, freeze and then store the cubes in a plastic freezer bag. Stores for up to 6 months.
Spread pesto into a cookie sheet and freeze. Break frozen layer into pieces and store in a plastic freezer bag for up to 6 months.
Tips for Using Basil in Pesto.
Small leaf basil is the preferred basil to use throughout Italy. Large leafed varieties are more commonly available, but if you have a chance grow your own small leaf basil, try, it is worth it. When buying basil, choose bunches that look lively. The leaves should be free from black spots and not be wilted.
Don’t wash basil until you’re ready to use it. Store fresh cut basil two ways: the loose leaves stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag with a paper towel; or, if in a bunch, place the stems in a small amount of water, with a plastic bag over the leaves.
Remove all of the tough stems when you prepare basil for pesto. Real pesto lovers will even remove the large central veins from each a leaf in large leaf basil (I did’t do this).
Want to get more out of this versatile condiment? Check out 8 awesome pesto variations to change it up a little bit!
Your turn! If there is anything you would like to share about making pesto, let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear what you’ve got!