If you love to plant a vegetable garden like I do, or are short on space and rely on a patio garden for your veggies and herbs, then basil is most definitely at the top of the list! Basil is an aromatic herb with so many uses. It adds a sweet note to tomato sauce; it’s the classic garnish for a caprese salad; it imparts a lovely licorice flavor in both cocktails, mocktails and smoothies; and plays the starring role in pesto, which is the perfect no-cook sauce to make all summer long! Pesto can be used in various ways. Toss it with gluten free (or regular) pasta for a quick weeknight dinner. Spread it on grilled chicken for a kick of freshness. Or smear it on sandwich bread instead of mayo. When I find myself with an abundance of basil in the garden, I make a big batch of pesto, pack it up in cute mason jars, and give it to family and friends. It keeps in the fridge for at least a week or two, making it that much easier to get dinner on the table without a fuss!
Toasted Walnut Pesto
- 1 cup of walnuts, toasted
- 4 cups loosely packed basil, stems removed and leaves washed and dried
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- Good pinch of crushed red pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil (as much as needed to thin the pesto)
- Lots of freshly grated pecorino romano cheese (eyeball it based on your tastes, but you'll need a good cup or so)
- Step 1 Toast the walnuts on a sheet pan for 4-5 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove from oven and let cool.
- Step 2 In the bowl of a food processor, place the basil leaves, garlic, and walnuts. Begin to pulse lightly.
- Step 3 Add the salt, cheese and red pepper flakes. Pulse again. It will be thick and pasty at this point.
- Step 4 With the lid on the bowl securely, begin streaming the olive oil into the bowl via the open chamber at the top of the processor’s lid. You’ll begin to see the pesto becoming thinner and more liquified. When you’ve reached the desired consistency of the pesto, taste the sauce for salt and pepper. If you prefer it very garlicky, you can add an additional clove or two. However, I find the ratio of 1 clove garlic to 1 cup basil a good balance.
- Step 5 When you are happy with the taste, spoon the pesto into clean jars or containers. Add a bit more oil to the top of the pesto and fasten the lid on the jar. Refrigerate until ready to use.
If using the pesto as a sauce for pasta, be sure to reserve about a cup or so of the cooking water to thin the sauce. This makes it much easier to coat the hot pasta with the pesto sauce. Place the drained pasta into a large bowl, add spoonfuls of the pesto (how much you add depends on how much pasta you’ve made and how much of the pesto flavor you desire) and pour in the cooking water a little at a time, as you gently toss the pasta. I also like to add more grated cheese as I toss the pasta. Pasta with pesto can be enjoyed hot or at room temperature, making it the perfect summer pasta for a picnic or backyard party.