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Pesto

August 14, 2012

When I start seeing bundles of basil at the farmers market, I know it’s time to make pesto. There’s nothing quite like the smell of a big bunch of fresh basil and the best way to use it is also one of the simplest. As I was washing basil and grating Parmesan for the pesto, it brought back some great memories of my first few years on my own. When I was still a single girl living in New York City, I went to the amazing Union Square Greenmarket almost every Saturday in the summer. The juxtaposition of summer’s bounty in the middle of a concrete jungle was refreshing and exciting, a way to connect with the source of your food in a place where it’s so easy to forget that food actually grows in dirt. I would get an iced coffee, hop on the subway with an empty canvas tote and head to the Greenmarket. It’s crowded and the sun is hot in the open park but it’s always worthwhile walking around to see which stands have the best produce. I loaded up my tote with corn, basil, tomatoes, fresh peaches, zucchini, more tomatoes…whatever looked fresh. Then, I made my way back to the steamy subway and home to my apartment where I decided what to do with all my fresh produce. On many occasions, I made pesto to serve with pasta and froze the leftovers in ice cube trays to enjoy in the cold months. A big bowl of pasta with pesto tastes like summer and always makes me smile.

I like to make a big batch of this, eat it with pasta a few times and freeze whatever is left in an ice cube tray. Once it’s frozen, put the cubes into a ziploc bag for use in soup or pasta in the off season. The pesto might discolor a bit but it will still taste great.

If you make pesto on the weekend, all you have to do is boil water for the pasta for a very quick weeknight dinner. I tossed some baby cherry tomatoes in with the pasta for some contrast and color.

The quantity here is more than enough for a pound of pasta (I like spaghetti best) with maybe a bit leftover. You can easily double the recipe for a larger crowd. Pesto is also great in sandwiches, mixed into salad dressing, or with vegetables.

Pesto
adapted from The Joy of Cooking

4 cups loosely packed fresh basil
2/3 cup walnut halves
2 large cloves garlic or 4 smaller cloves
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 to 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine basil, walnuts, garlic and Parmesan in a food processor and process to a rough paste. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil. Start with 3/4 cup olive oil and add more if the pesto seems dry. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

See how easy that was?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Amanda permalink
    August 14, 2012 8:38 pm

    That looks amazing…we grow basil in our backyard, so I am definitely going to try the recipe!!

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