There is nothing — nothing — like fresh homemade pesto. And good news: it’s finally basil growing season!!! I can’t wait for my little “urban garden” to start rocking again so I can make AllOfThePesto AllOfTheTime.
Yes, that’s right, I have an “urban garden.” I took my first crack at urban gardening a few years ago, thanks to a push from my sister in law. An urban girl’s gotta do what an urban girl’s gotta do, yunno? I usually cram about 8-10 pots on my little balcony — rendering it almost unusable otherwise but: priorities — and attempt to grow just about anything that has even the remotest chance of survival in a pot.
How did my wonderful SIL talk me into starting my garden? Pretty sure it was the suggestion that, with my own basil plant, I could make fresh pesto just about anytime I wanted. What other motivation could I possibly need? Done and Done. And she even shared her favorite pesto recipe with me!!!
((And now you understand why I had to threaten my brother about not screwing it up while they were dating — she is a sister-in-law gem and a true kindred spirit. And no, you can’t steal her. But you can thank her for this pesto.))
Confession: this recipe isn’t exactly the same as my sister-in-law’s. The one she gave me calls for pine nuts, buuuut I tend to be a bit
cheap frugal — and have you seen the price of pine nuts? I’m totally sure they’re worth every penny, but alas, old habits die hard (except when it comes to coffee. Never ever drink cheap coffee).
So I subbed walnuts in for pine nuts and I’m preeetty sure it made this pesto into liquid gold… errrr green. But I also have a mild obsession with walnuts that miiiight make me a bit biased. So there’s that.
Being able to make substitutions like that though? Maybe the best part of making a pesto. For the most part, you can get pretty creative. I’m sure you’ve heard of kale pesto and spinach pesto, but you don’t have to stop there! Oh no. You can swap out the parmesan cheese — why not give romano, fontina, pecorino, or asiago a chance to shine? — or substitute just about any kind of nut for the walnuts or traditional pine nuts.
Pesto experiments > just about any other kitchen experiment.
I love that you can use pesto so many different ways: on pizza, with pasta, on a grilled cheese, as a condiment, in soups, mixed with mayo, as a marinade, on potatoes — and the list could go on and on!
And speaking of all of that I have just another note about “my sister-in law’s pesto” (which is sounding less and less like hers and more like my hijacked version) — I use less oil than the original recipe calls for, so mine tends to be more of a paste and less of a sauce. There is a method to my madness, I assure you.
Sometimes you want your pesto a little thicker (less oily), and sometimes you want it a little thinner (more oily), depending on how you’re going to be using it.
Example: When making a pesto mayo, you wouldn’t want a super oily pesto mixed in — it would make the mayo super runny! Or if you were to smear a more oily pesto on the bread for a grilled cheese, the fat from the melted cheese mixing with the oily pesto could overpower the sandwich, making it a hot greasy mess. And adding pesto to a soup? (side note: you’ve gotta try it!!) if it’s super oily, the oil will float to the surface of the soup and just sit there. No thanks!
So, my thinking is that you can always add some oil, but you can’t take it away. It’s easy enough to mix the pesto up with an extra tablespoon or so of oil when making pastas, marinades, etc. that I always opt for making more of a pesto “paste” so I can use it just about any situation, adding oil if necessary. But, if you prefer a more liquid pesto, just add an extra tablespoon or two of oil to my recipe below! Easy as that.
So many pesto opportunities in my future! I can’t decide what to slather it on first 🙂
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
- 2 cloves garlic
- ⅓ cup walnuts
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil*
- Salt to taste
- Gently wash and dry the basil leaves.
- Add the basil, garlic, walnuts, parmesan cheese, and lemon juice to a food processor and process until everything is blended and no large lumps remain, stopping to scrape the bowl down as needed.
- While the processor is running, gradually add the olive oil through the feed tube. Continue to process until fully incorporated. Salt to taste.