When I think of basil, I think of pesto. When I think of pesto, I think of Italy. When I think of Italy, I think of jumping on a plane and flying straight there! Sigh.
I did get to live in Italy for almost 2 months once, and it was my dream come true. To be really honest, if I hadn’t just met and started to fall in love with my now husband before living there, I might have just never left! But we got to travel around to a few different places together, and I think that is where we both really knew that forever was in sight!
But back to basil and pesto! Fresh basil is at the foundation of a good pesto, and it really isn’t that complicated to make either. I always kind of just liked pesto until living in Italy and being taught how to make it with such few ingredients – everything an Italian household always has on hand!
On the other hand, living in Greece, there was lots of basil – but people rarely used it for cooking. Rather, it was considered a sacred herb and more commonly used in blessings by the church. In Greek history, basil is believed to have been found in the same spot that Helen and St. Constantine found the Holy Cross. The word “basil” is derived from Greek and means “king”, this is also the reason that basil is still today called the ‘king of herbs’.
Homemade Pesto Recipe:2 -3 cups of fresh sweet basil 1/3 cup pine nuts* 2/3 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided 3-4 cloves garlic 1/2 cup good quality parmesan cheese, optional salt and pepper You will need to use a food processor to get the best texture for pesto. Begin by adding the pine nuts and garlic, pulse a few times. Add the basil and pulse again until smooth. If you are able, slowly stream 1/2 cup of oil while continuing to pulse – if not, add in increments until smooth. Finally, add the parmesan and some salt and pepper to taste, pulse to just blend and smooth. Store in a jar in the fridge or store in the freezer for up to 3 months. I distribute in amounts of 3 Tbsp. or in ice trays when available. Serve over pasta, marinate meats/fish, spread on hot bread, or toss with your favorite veggies. The best secret for making outstanding pesto is to use the most fresh and authentic ingredients you can find. Go big or go home, you will really be able to taste the difference when trying to save a buck here or there on the oil and cheese – do it right, and savor each bite!
I know pesto has a bad reputation for being high in fat, and that is because it is true. But if this is something that worries you, there are some ways to reduce the fat content. First, instead of adding the parmesan into the pesto, leave it out and just shave a little above whatever you are making. Secondly, you can reduce the olive oil, but be careful that you don’t skimp too much or else if will lose the velvety texture that makes it so desirable.
I am sorry that it looks a little like green slime, but pesto is not so photogenic! It is however worth every minute to make a big batch and save for later or share with your friends!
I have some more great recipes (using pesto) I will be sharing in the next few days, so get your pesto ready – homemade pesto is incomparable to store bought pesto!