Last month I got a half-bushel of basil from a local farmer’s market. It was fresh picked about an hour before I got there. It smelled divine in the car on the ride home! So what do you do with a half bushel of basil? Make pesto, of course. I love to grow basil at home, but I don’t have a large enough crop to make large quantities of pesto. So I watch this farmer’s market at the end of summer when they cut their large crop of basil and sell it cheap!
Actually, I only made full-blown pesto with about half of the basil. The other half I put into the food processor with olive oil (in the proportion of 1 cup packed basil to ¼ cup olive oil). This basil/olive oil mixture I spooned into ice cube trays and froze. Once frozen, I put the basil ice cubes into a Ziploc bag, then back into the freezer. I use them to season all kinds of dishes throughout the next 3 seasons, until I have basil growing again in my garden. The proportion above is also the same proportion of basil to olive oil in the pesto, so if you just want to freeze the basil/olive oil, then you can add the remaining ingredients later to make fresh pesto.
But I love being able to pull pesto out of the freezer and not worry about whether I have pine nuts ready to be toasted. To make fresh basil pesto, combine 4 cups of packed basil leaves (don’t use the thick, stiff stems; smaller stems may be used), 4 cloves of garlic and ¾ cup toasted pine nuts in a food processor. Blend well. Add 1 cup fresh grated Parmesan, processing just until blended. Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream while food processor is running.
Pour pesto into jars, freezer containers or small Ziploc bags. If you are using jars or plastic freezer containers (like below), drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the top of each container. This will help keep the basil from darkening or becoming freezer-burnt. This container is obviously not full, it is one that I currently have open in my fridge. Pesto makes a great addition to so many things: pasta, pizza, sandwiches, fresh tomato salads, bruschetta.
When thawing pesto from the freezer, DO NOT MICROWAVE! It will melt the Parmesan and leave you with a gloopy mess (trust me on this one). Still tastes good, but looks pretty funky. Let thaw in the refrigerator overnight, or on the countertop for several hours.
¾ cup pine nuts
4 cups fresh basil leaves, firmly packed
4 cloves garlic
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 425°F. Toast pine nuts until lightly browned, checking and stirring every 4-5 minutes. Cool.
Using a food processor, blend basil, garlic, and pine nuts. Add Parmesan, processing just until blended. Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream while food processor is running.
Makes about 2 cups
- Substitute toasted walnuts for the pine nuts.
- Low on basil? Substitute fresh spinach for 1-2 cups of the basil
- To Freeze: Pour pesto into jars, freezer containers or small Ziploc bags, leaving about ¼” headspace. If using jars or plastic containers, drizzle small amount of additional olive oil over the top of the pesto. Freeze.
- Alternate Preparation: Blend basil and olive oil in proportions above. Spoon into ice cube trays or small Ziploc baggies. Freeze. Use to prepare fresh pesto later, or to add to recipes calling for fresh basil.