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I started out this summer with a couple of basil plants in a garden space that my neighbor let me use this summer. The plot of land is basically shaded by bushes and trees and is backed up to a green belt, hence it gets very little sun. The basil grew but did not flourish so mid-summer I bought another plant and put it in a large container in my front flower beds. Wow! The new plant grew like nobody’s business and produced lots and lots of beautiful basil. This September, after using bits here and there in my cooking, I decided to make pesto. I lacked the traditional pine nuts so substituted walnuts.
On my first try I covered the pesto with a layer of olive oil, but it still turned brown at the top. A few days later I briefly blanched the basil, squeezed out the water and then proceeded. I love the final result and now I have a large jar in the freezer for this winter when I want to pretend it is spring.
To me, pesto is one of the finer things in life. It takes me literally 10 minutes to prepare. I love it tossed with hot pasta and some freshly chopped tomatoes and a splash of cream. I also love it mixed with homemade mayo or on top of soft cream cheese as a dip or a spread for crackers.
Basil Walnut Pesto
Makes about a cup of pesto
- 3 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- ⅓ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
- ⅓ cup walnuts, raw or lightly toasted and cooled
- 1 large peeled clove garlic
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil (mine is from Italy!)
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
First you are going to blanch the basil. This extra step prevents it from turning brown!
Remove the basil leaves from the stems, and drop them into a saucepan of boiling water. Stir basil for 30 seconds then quickly remove the leaves to an ice water bath. After a few minutes, put the blanched leaves in a dish towel and dry them well.
In a food processor add blanched basil, grated parmesan cheese, walnuts, and garlic. Pulse until coarsely chopped, about 10 pulses.
With the motor continuously running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and process until smooth. Stop halfway and scrape the sides so everything gets processed. Finally, season to taste with salt and pepper. Your kitchen will smell unbelievable!
Put the pesto into a glass jar with a lid. It will stay fresh in the refrigerator for a week or it can be frozen for up to 6 months. To defrost, remove from the freezer and put into the fridge overnight.