Basil Pesto is a summer classic, great in pasta salads, spread onto a baguette, or added to grilled chicken and salmon. Basil has a short shelf life – it’s best used within a few days so making pesto or basil oil is a great way to get a lot of use out of one bunch of basil. Start by washing and thoroughly drying the basil. The best tool for this, is of course a salad spinner. During the CSA season our salad spinner gets a workout!
When the basil is dry, toast the sunflower seeds or pine nuts over medium-low heat. Traditionally pine nuts are used in basil pesto, but I generally use sunflower seeds as they are much less expensive. Also, if nut allergies are a concern this is a great way to make nut free pesto. Don’t skip toasting the nuts or seeds, it really brings out the flavor.
When the basil and seeds are ready, you’re halfway there! Mince the garlic by putting it in the food processor and processing a few spins. Add nuts or seeds and parmesan, pulse together.
Add the basil leaves, and stream in the olive oil while processing. When the mixture is combined, add lemon juice, salt, and pepper and process again. Basil pesto keeps for a few days in the refrigerator, and freezes wonderfully. Our basil bunches vary in size at different times during the season, so for a very large bunch of basil double the recipe and freeze half.
2 cups basil, washed and thoroughly dried
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons parmesan
2 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds or pine nuts
1 garlic clove
juice from half a lemon
salt + pepper to taste
Mince garlic in food processor. Add parmesan and sunflower seeds and pulse together. Add basil leaves to food processor, then with processor on stream in oil while blending. When mixture is combined add lemon, salt + pepper.
For pesto pasta, toss about 1/2 cup of pesto with 8 oz warm, freshly cooked pasta. Add more pesto to taste. Pasta should be very green and pesto-y. Add more grated parmesan, salt or pepper to taste. Serve with extra cheese.