This basil pesto is quick and versatile. Try this pesto in a variety of recipes like salads, mayo, pasta and more!
Today we’re making beautiful, fresh, tasty basil pesto! This Italian classic is a summer favorite in many homes for a great reason. It goes really well with pasta, salad, on sandwiches, or as a garnish to spice up any dinner. It’s a great accompaniment to pretty much anything you like, bringing a summery, zesty finish to your meal. It’s pretty easy these days to pick up pesto at the store, but did you know that you can make basil pesto for yourself at home? That’s right, you can prepare basil pesto in the comfort of your own kitchen. It doesn’t take long at all, and only requires a few major ingredients.
What is Pesto?
Pesto is a green sauce that blends basil, garlic, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, and parmesan cheese. The word “pesto” comes from the Italian word “pestare”, which means “to crush.” It makes sense, then, that traditional pesto is ground and pounded. This method dates back to the Roman empire. While the traditional method uses a mortar and pestle to grind all the ingredients together, most of the time we prefer to use a food processor to combine the ingredients together.
How To make Basil Pesto
The steps to make basil pesto in a food processor are so simple and so easy to follow.
- Simply pulse your nuts, lemon juice, and garlic in the food processor until finely chopped.
- Then add your basil leaves, and pulse again. Then with the blade still running, drizzle your olive oil into the mixture, and finally add some grated parmesan cheese. Process until the mixture is well combined. This should only take a few pulses, and then you have delicious fresh pesto!
Any vegans reading this will be thrilled to know that you can simply leave the cheese out to make this a vegan recipe.
Basil pesto is really easy to make, and you can vary your recipe and how you use it based on the weather and your mood.
Pesto Recipe Variations
Like most Italian food, pesto has many regional variations that are very popular. You, too, can alter this recipe to suit your own palate and preferences.
There are plenty of variations you can make, all with various seeds, nuts, vegetables, and leafy greens.
- You can substitute pretty much any nut for the pine nuts. Pine nuts are harder to get in some parts of the world than others, so you might want to try walnuts or almonds. Pistachios, with their sweet flavor and vibrant green color, are also great, as they help make your pesto a little extra green.
- You can do a nut-free pesto with pepitas or hemp seeds instead of any nuts.
- Different herbs will change your pesto’s flavor profile immensely. For a very different kick, parsley, cilantro, or mint can totally alter your pesto. Some Asian fusion style restaurants will make a cilantro based pesto that goes really well with the sweet and sour flavor profile of Asian cuisine. You could also try combining different herbs to see what you like.
- If you want a less intensely flavored pesto, you could reduce the herb content. Replace your basil with spinach, kale, arugula, or even chopped zucchini. You could try boosting the veggie content by pulsing in some artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper, or an avocado!
- Worried about wasting your veggie stems? Try blanching your kale stems before pulsing them into the pesto mix.
- If you want to give your pesto a serious flavor boost, simply add two to four sundried tomatoes, a charred jalapeno, or some red pepper flakes to really add some kick.
What To Do With Pesto
Pesto is a really versatile addition to your culinary arsenal. The classic use for pesto is tossed through a hearty bowl of pasta, but there are plenty of other flavor combos you simply must try.
You could add pesto to a potato salad, spoon it over your mac and cheese, stir it into Mayo, or simply use it as a spread in a delicious sandwich. You can add pesto to meat, too. Try spooning some pesto onto a perfectly cooked side of salmon or some chicken breast. Pesto goes great with polenta and on pizza, too!
How To Store Basil Pesto
Because pesto is made with vibrant, fresh ingredients, it’s best to use fresh, but if you want to store it that’s OK too. You simply need to cover it in an airtight container in the fridge. You could, if you want, add a layer of olive oil to “seal in” the green color, as pesto sometimes will brown while being stored due to oxygen exposure.
How To Freeze Pesto
So you’ve made more pesto than you wanted to eat at first, and now you have some left over. You don’t want it browning, and you need to store it for use later. What if you tried freezing it?
The first thing to consider when freezing pesto is that cheese won’t freeze well. So this works better if you’re making vegan style pesto as per our earlier recommendation. To freeze pesto, we have an ingenious way to make it easy.
First, you need to line an ice cube tray with plastic wrap. Fill each cube of the tray with your pesto. You can freeze the tray, and once frozen, take each cube of pesto and add it to a zip-top freezer safe bag. Put your bag full of frozen pesto cubes back in the freezer, and reheat when you want to eat the pesto.
This method is great because it makes reheating pesto much easier. Rather than having to defrost a solid block of pesto, it’s much more efficient to reheat the smaller pesto cubes. Once the frozen pesto has returned to room temperature, you can add your grated parmesan, grana padano, or pecorino, and serve your pesto just the way you like it.
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