Oh Summer! The pools are all open, the weather is hot and every garden is bursting with fresh fruits, veggies and herbs. For some amazing reason (I have no idea why) my herbs have been growing like crazy this summer. It’s only early June yet I’ve been able to harvest 3 or 4 times already. My freezer is filled with jars of basil pesto and lemon mint dressing.
Although I like to play around with different types of pesto, my (and my hubby’s) absolute favorite kind is good ole reliable basil pesto. You can put it on everything from chicken to shrimp, and over all kinds of raw or cooked vegetables. I also love to use it in a “pesto chicken” sandwich – just toast some ciabatta bread and add grilled chicken, thickly shaved gruyere cheese, basil pesto and a tiny drizzle of dark balsamic vinegar. I then wrap the sandwich in foil and place it back in the oven for a couple minutes just to melt the cheese and warm everything up. It is absolutely delicious!
One thing to note – I love to use pesto on fish; however, I find regular pesto a little too heavy at times for it. I combat that by lightening it up with some orange citrus. When I plan on using pesto on fish, like salmon, I make the pesto as usual up until the addition of the lemon (which is the last step). This is where I deviate. I add the zest and juice of ½ a lemon as well as the zest and juice of ½ an orange. This brightens up the flavors of the pesto and makes it more appropriate to use on a delicate food like fish.
So this Pesto recipe is very easy and pretty true to the traditional way it is made. My only major difference is that I also add walnuts to the mix, at the same time lessening the amount of pine nuts used. I like to use mostly walnuts just because they contain a little less fat and calories than pine nuts.
The remaining ingredients and the preparation are pretty standard. Just remember that you will need a little extra time beforehand to toast up the nuts. Place both the walnuts and pine nuts on a baking sheet and roast them in a 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden brown and fragrant. (You can also toast them up in a dry sauté pan. I just find that the oven roasts them more evenly). Allow the nuts to cool for a couple minutes before you begin the pesto. Combine the fresh basil, toasted walnuts, toasted pine nuts, peeled garlic cloves, salt, and pepper in a food processor and process for 5-10 seconds to break everything up. While the processor runs, drizzle extra virgin olive oil down the feed tube to roughly puree and emulsify the mixture. Turn off the machine and remove the cover. Then add the freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, replace the top and pulse 2-3 times to combine the mixture. (I don’t like overprocessing the cheese so I always pulse it in last).
Last is the lemon juice. You can add it in 1 of 2 ways – either squeeze ½ a lemon (about 1 TBSP) over the pesto and pulse, checking for seasoning adjustments after (in the food processor) OR you can first taste for seasoning adjustments, pour the pesto mixture into a bowl using a silicone spatula and then squeeze ½ a lemon (about 1 TBSP) over the pesto and stir to combine. I use the latter because of old habits and preference but I wanted to mention the first way because you will get a “truer” sense of way the final result will be when adjusting for seasoning (salt/pepper) if the lemon is already added in the food processer. That way you don’t freak out when tasting it in the food processor before the lemon is added. (The mixture will taste a little saltier before the addition of the lemon.) I squeeze later because I already take the taste change into account and I don’t like the heat of the blade altering the lemon flavor – probably an old wives tale but why chance it.
That’s it – pretty straight forward and quick recipe.
When placed in an airtight container or in Ziploc freezer bags, the pesto will last a couple of days in the fridge or for several months in the freezer.
- 3 cups fresh basil
- ⅛ cup pine nuts, toasted
- ¼ cups walnuts, toasted
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¾ cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Place nuts on a baking sheet and roast for 8-10 minutes in a 375 degree oven until light golden brown and fragrant
- Combine basil, nuts, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor. Pulse for several seconds to break up ingredients
- With the processor turned on, slowly pour extra virgin olive oil through the feed tube to emulsify and roughly puree mixture
- Add parmigiano reggiano, and pulse 2-3 times just to combine mixture
- Check seasoning and adjust for taste if needed
- Place pesto in bowl and add lemon juice, stir to combine