Sunday, June 12, 2011

Basil Pesto

Pesto is so versatile. You can use it as a sauce, condiment, or a flavor base with other ingredients. Below is my favorite method for making a classic basil pesto. Often I will double or triple the recipe and freeze the extra pesto in ½-cup portions. This works particularly well when the basil in your garden runs amok. Blanching the basil with help the pesto retain its bright green color.

Basil Pesto
recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis 

2 cups fresh basil leaves
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ to 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan

Prepare a bowl of ice water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Put the basil in a sieve and plunge it into the boiling water, pushing the leaves down into the water and stirring them so they blanch evenly. Blanch for 15 seconds, and then plunge the herbs into the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain immediately, squeeze the herbs dry or dry in a salad spinner.

Bring a bit of water to boil and throw the garlic in for about 45 seconds. Remove garlic, run under cold water to stop cooking, and peel.

In a food processor, pulse the basil, pine nuts, garlic, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ¼ teaspoon of pepper until finely chopped. With the food processor still running, gradually add enough oil to form a smooth and thick consistency. Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl and stir in ½ cup of cheese. Season the pesto with more salt and pepper, to taste.

Yield: 1 cup