Pesto costs a million dollars in the store–if you’ve got a poser homestead garden, it should be free.

 

pesto

You should never spend a dime on pesto. It’s one of those things you get in tiny jars in the store, but I could eat by the spoonful. Start harvesting your basil ahead of time and you’ll get enough pesto to last you until next basil season.

Taking care of your basil

Basil produces beautiful flowers. I’ve used them in herb bouquets. But, to get the most out of your basil for gourmet purposes, you need to encourage leaves to grow. “Deadhead” the plants by pinching off these flowers right when you see them. Also, harvest your basil often by taking off the tops to encourage branching and growing.

This produces stronger plants–and more basil. You can freeze your partial-recipe harvests until you’re ready to make your pesto, you can refrigerate in a ziplock bag on a damp towel for a week or so, or you can make several small batches of pesto as your basil grows.

Store any leftover basil  in a freezer bag. Crumble it straight into dishes all winter long.

Pesto ratios: 

Put the following in your blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. That’s all there is to making the perfect, summer-fresh pesto. Experiment with different ratios, oils, and nuts.  Giada Delaurentis used avocados–I thought it would be awful, but it was darned near the best pesto I ever had.

  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 1/3-1/2 cup pine nuts and/or walnuts.  You can mix the two
  • 1/2-1 clove garlic
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Tips:

  • If you are growing basil, make a big batch of pesto–freeze it in an ice cube tray or foodsaver bags. I use this all winter for meals and seasoning.
  • Change it up by using Thai basil, peanut oil, and walnuts to make a different pesto. You can sub any green, nut or oil in or out of this one to travel the world.

Uses for your pesto

  • Toss with pasta
  • Use in soups
  • Substitute for fresh basil in any recipe that needs basil
  • Use as a spread on bruschetta
  • Put a scoop in a pasta salad
  • Create dips and dressings
  • Make a cream sauce by adding a bit of heavy cream into the mix

 

Photo by Artur Rutowski

Post photo by Caroline Attwood