PESTO, PESTO, PESTO!
Since I am not a corned beef eater, I give you my Pesto recipe for St Paddy's day. For the wearin' of the green, you can pin a basil leaf on your collar. Or not.
I love pesto. I love its smell and its taste. I love the fact that pesto will keep almost indefinitely if it's covered in a thin layer of olive oil. I love that it's easy to make and use. Boil up some pasta, toss it with pesto, put it on a plate and cover it with parmesan and voila! you have a tasty, fresh meal.
I especially like homemade pesto with its delicate blend of flavors, and I really like the simplicity of this recipe, which I've used for years.
The word "pesto" is Italian, and comes from the same word for "pestle," because the sauce used to be made by grinding up all the ingredients in a mortar and pestle. Thank goodness for food processors!
"Pesto" literally meant "sauce," which implies that there were many variations on the theme. Even today, you can buy tomato pesto, and pestos with walnuts instead of the traditional pine nuts, pestos with different cheeses and so forth.
Some ways you can use pesto: Replace pizza sauce with pesto for a super rich base for your toppings. Top an omelet with pesto, mix into a salad dressing, use as a bruschetta with some cheese on crackers, make a pasta salad with vegies and pesto, and more!
My family's favorite way to eat pesto is spooned on top of a generous serving of cheese tortellini, along with a splash of olive oil and a generous dash of parmesan. Mix it all together and dig in!
Here is the recipe I use. It's on a handy little plastic card that I keep in my recipe box. It has been in my stock of well-used recipes for years.
2 cups fresh basil
1 garlic clove (unless you REALLY like fresh garlic, then use 2 cloves)
1/4 cup pine nuts (aka pignolias)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
BLEND all ingredients in your food processor or blender until smooth, scraping down the sides. The pesto will keep for months if covered with a small amount of olive oil.
That's it. I store it in an old plastic cottage cheese container. Level the top and gently pour a layer of olive oil over it that's about 1/4" thick. Refrigerate. As long as it's covered with oil, it will keep in the fridge for quite a while.
Where, you ask, can fresh basil be found? When I went looking, the only basil available was live, but the next week my usual stores had it in clamshells. I ended up buying the live basil plant pictured above. I was hoping to have enough leaves left over to let it grow more, but not so. Sadly, I had to chop them all off.
Pine nuts, also known as pignolias, are the seeds from certain pine trees. They have a slightly sweet flavor and mild aroma that I find pleasant. Pine nuts are not always easy to find and are a little pricey. But if you like pesto, it's worth having a bag of nuts on hand. Trader Joe's and Costco sell them, and in a pinch you can sometimes find them in the baking section of your local grocery. They keep very well in a sealed bag in the freezer. I had a bag that spent at least 2 years sealed in the freezer without damage.
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