Homemade Basil Pesto

Pesto is such a versatile sauce.
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I like to use it over pasta, as a base on pizza and as a spread on baguette slices topped with tomatoes and cheese. Speaking of pizza, here’s a recipe for my low carb portabella mushroom pizzas using pesto as a base.

I grow fresh sweet basil in my herb garden and my basil plants have been blooming profusely over the summer. They’re starting to slow down a bit so I decided to harvest a lot of basil leaves to make a huge batch of fresh basil pesto. Pesto freezes well so I used a little bit for our chicken and pasta dinner the other night and froze the rest (it’ll keep about 6 – 8 months). This recipe yields about four cups of nice, strong flavored pesto.

Here’s what I used:

8 cups of basil leaves lightly packed

1  1/4 cups of raw pine nuts, shelled (you can use walnuts, if you prefer)

6 big cloves of garlic roughly chopped

2 cups of extra virgin olive oil

2 cups of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

In a large food processor, add half the basil leaves and pulse a few times to condense then add the remaining basil leaves and pine nuts. (Note: if you use walnuts, pulse them in the food processor before you add any basil leaves.) Pulse a few times until the mixture is ground then add chopped garlic and pulse a few more times until the garlic is finely chopped. Scrape bowl as needed. Turn the food processor on and add the olive oil a little bit at a time. Once mixed well, add the grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and pulse until mixed well. Scrape bowl as needed. You should end up with a thick, sticky, slightly moist mixture. That’s it!

Set aside what you think you’ll need for current use and freeze the rest of the batch. Remember, pesto has a strong flavor so a little goes a long way. Start adding the sauce a little bit at a time then adjust the flavor to your liking.

Freezing: There are a couple of ways you can do this. There is the ice cube tray method which yields small portions of the pesto. I like to keep things simpler so I use 1 inch high by 4 inch wide plastic containers with lids. It’s a bigger portion, but we use a lot of pesto! Whichever method you use, be sure to label your container with a permanent marker.

Enjoy!

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