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from the herb garden – basil pesto

Thunder rolled and rumbled last night, so uncommon for us here in Western Oregon. The wind picked up, and finally the rain fell, not thunderstorm-hard, but gentle. It was a welcome sound, soothing even. When I woke this morning, everything had a shimmer about it as if sprinkled by little beings while we slept, unaware.

Summer mornings, I love to walk around the yard, inspecting and inhaling, sometimes still carrying my cup of coffee with me. I had a plan for dinner, so the herb garden was the first place I went this morning. It was positively brilliant and buzzing with life.  (I’m not particularly fond of spiders, but even they were doing lovely things.) For the last several days, my husband’s been out of town. I wanted to welcome him home with one of his very favorite things – pasta tossed in homemade pesto, made with heaping handfuls of basil from our garden. Something about him smacking his lips pleases me so much.

Basil Pesto

SO incredibly easy to make, and it’s heads above anything you’ll buy. I don’t mean to brag. But it’s true. (I suppose it would be true of almost any homemade pesto.)  It’s all about the fresh! (Well, and always about the love.)

Though traditionally made with a mortar and pestle, it’s a time-consuming method, so I’m giving instructions here for a food-processor or blender. If one day you feel like doing something barefoot in your kitchen and you’ve got the time, put on some romantic Italian violin music, bring out that heavy mortar and pound away as aromatic clouds of basil and garlic engulf you. (Someone may just come up behind you and kiss your neck.)

  • packed cups of tender, young basil leaves
  • 3 heaping Tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1½ teaspoons coarse salt
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil (or more to taste)
  • 3 plump garlic cloves, minced finely
  • ½ cup freshly grated cheese, preferably a combination of Parmesan and Pecorino Romano (otherwise all Parmesan) – with extra reserved for serving
  • (more salt to taste, if needed)

Put the basil, pine nuts and salt into a food-processor or blender and process while you add the oil in a steady stream. You’re not looking for a fine pureé here – but rather a grainy sauce, with bits of basil leaf and nuts still identifiable. Add the minced garlic and process just enough to mix. Remove the sauce to a bowl and using a spatula stir in the grated cheese. At this point, if the sauce seems thicker than you’d like, add a little extra olive oil.

Serving suggestions: Though I’ve pictured it here with spaghetti, it’s wonderful on linguine, or any pasta that has a “cup” or tube to hold even more of the sauce – penne or orecchiette (“little ear” pasta) as examples. Pesto’s also wonderful dropped by a spoonful atop Minestrone soup. Or on boiled new potatoes. Or on fresh green beans. Or on slices of juicy tomatoes. Or on bruschetta with melted mozzarella. Or in an omelette…

To store: If not using immediately, you can keep it refrigerated for several days by doing the following: omit the cheese, put the sauce in a jar and cover with a thin layer of olive oil. (This will prevent the basil from oxidizing and turning brown.) You can store it in the freezer this way for weeks at least. When it comes time to use it, let it come to room temperature and stir in the cheese.

NOTE: With something as special as this, and with as few simple ingredients, you won’t be sorry if you choose high quality olive oil and cheese. The difference is one you can taste.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Darlyn #

    Wow. Glad to see you are back in full swing. This looks delicious

    August 26, 2011
  2. We had thunder last night, I really enjoy it 😀 These photos are amazing, the dish looks absolutely divine. I’ll definitely be coming back to this blog, thanks for sharing so glad I visited. I think pesto is one of my favourite ever sauces.

    August 27, 2011
  3. lovely pictures, I like pestos a lot! Can’t wait for summer here in South Africa just to spend some time in the herb garden.

    August 27, 2011
  4. I dreamed I made spaghetti with marinara last night. Too bad I didn’t look here first, I might have dreamed of pesto. When I look at your photos, i can smell the basil!

    August 29, 2011
  5. kisses on the neck and thriving herbs gardens. Two of my favorite things!

    August 29, 2011
  6. Ashley #

    Your blog has summer written all over it. What lovely photos. We’ve got pesto to make, too. Yum yum. Thanks for the inspiration, as always, Mama.

    August 29, 2011
  7. Ali #

    Have always LOVED your pesto best! Emi will be so excited to try nana’s recipe on her all time favorite sandwich-grilled cheese with tomatoes and pesto! Yum!!

    September 10, 2011
  8. I saw your new pasta recipe, and it seemed too exotic for me, so went looking and found this one… which looks just right for my taste. Thank you.

    March 30, 2013
    • That pleases me no end Shimon! Hope you enjoyed! And you’re more than welcome!

      April 3, 2013

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