Thursday, June 14, 2012

pesto, pesto, pesto!

I have a startling confession to make.  Before I made it myself last summer, I had never eaten pesto.  Oh, sure I had heard of it, with all its basil-y, garlicky, oily goodness, but then it got so trendy and self-important that I just didn't even want to try it.  Years went by, and I didn't miss it.  Then, last summer, we finally had a wondrous crop of basil, so I thought to make some pesto with it. 

I got on line and read a few recipes, then felt that I was ready to try it for myself.  I will tell you what I did, although I hesitate to call it a recipe, really, as the amounts are sketchy, at best.  I went out and snipped off about one-third of the leaves from my basil plants. There were a lot of them - more than I expected.   I washed the leaves, still on their stems, thoroughly.  I picked the leaves from the stems, and rinsed them again.  I dried the basil leaves very thoroughly on old kitchen towels.
I gathered my other ingredients, which included fresh garlic, walnut halves, extra virgin olive oil, salt, freshly-ground pepper, and grated Parmesan cheese. Most recipes call for pine nuts instead of walnuts, but I almost always have walnuts on hand, and they are cheaper and healthier than pine nuts, so walnuts it is.  I put a big handful of basil leaves on my cutting board, and also eight or ten walnut halves.  To the top of this pile I added one garlic clove.  Then I just started chopping.  All of it.  Together.  It seemed to me like chopping it all together made it easier to do, so that's how I did it.  I chopped everything as finely as I possibly could, then I chopped it some more.  When it was very fine, I dumped the mixture into a waiting mixing bowl and covered it with olive oil. 

I repeated this process until all of my basil was chopped up.  I added too many walnuts, I think, the first time I made pesto, so have used them more sparingly since then.  I added about a half cup of the grated Paremesan, then added salt and pepper.  You don't need as much salt as you might think, as the cheese is very salty.  Glug in some more olive oil.  Seriously.  A lot of olive oil.  I don't think you can use too much.  At least I never have.  And that's it.  The pesto is finished.

That's the way Julie likes to eat it.  Just spoon that over some freshly-cooked pasta and enjoy. I prefer to make a sauce of it, however by adding a small amount of white sauce (one cup of milk's worth) to the pesto.  Do you see what I did there?  Instead of adding my pesto to the white sauce, I add the white sauce to the pesto, thereby controlling how much the pesto is diluted.  Heat through, but do not boil.  Serve over freshly-cooked pasta. 

Did I mention that I had never tasted pesto before I made it that first time?  I loved it!  What's not to love?  The ingredients are fantastic.  You eat it over pasta.  I couldn't get enough.  I don't know how many batches of pesto I made last summer, but it was a sad day when I pulled the last little container of pesto out of the freezer last winter. 

Today is a correspondingly happy day, however, as it is the day I made my first batch of the 2012 pesto season. Boil some water!  Prepare the white sauce!  Let the celebration begin!


Ben said...

Oh man I want some fresh garden pesto RIGHT NOW. Think I'll grab a spoon and go "raid the icebox".

anne mancine said...

I think not!

jsdknits said...

I love pesto. I must have made several batches last summer and froze it in baggies. Over Christmas, I used it on foccacia bread, under sliced tomatoes for an open face sandwich. I also made a veggie pizza with pesto for the sauce and black beans, of all things, for one of the toppings.

anne mancine said...

WOW. Janet, that sounds so tasty. Hope I make enough pesto this year so that I can branch out a bit.