Saturday, April 20, 2013

Pesto 101

This recipe was originally posted by Michelle on 12/9/08, but I (Linda) am reposting it. I just made this pesto and it is so fresh and easy to make. I got my "farm fresh to you" box yesterday, and one of my surprises was a bunch of basil. What else could I do but use it up?

Submitted by: Michelle

Three years ago I had a student in my class called Celeste. When I met her she subsisted on fries, chicken nuggets and anything sugary and sweet. She was a very special student whose story I will tell someday in another blog entry, but for now, let me say how glad I am that I have converted her into a full fledged foodie. I regularly see her at school and she often comes to stay with me and David on the weekends. One of her favorite things to do is cook with me! And one of her favorite meals is pasta with pesto.

This past weekend she was visiting and after we took a short journey to Beaumont to meet up with Linda we decided to whip up a batch of pesto using some basil I bought that morning at the Farmer's Market.

It starts with a few simple ingredients: basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, olive oil and freshly ground pepper.

The pine nuts need to be toasted and a few minutes in the oven usually does the trick. You can also toast them in a skillet on the stove. My best tip for toasting nuts is: use your nose! You will smell the nutty scent before you actually see the nuts turn brown. Keep a close eye on them so they don't burn. I toasted extra pine nuts because Celeste likes to eat them as we cook.

Next, put the pine nuts, basil, garlic and pepper into a food processor or blender and whirl away. You are trying to create a coarse paste.

With the food processor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream. Mine is a little loose because the Parmesan that I am going to add next will thicken it up.

Mix in the parm and...

viola! Pesto!
This was Celeste's dinner on Sunday night. I simply tossed the cooked pasta with a few tablespoons of pesto and grated some Parmesan over the top.

Celeste loves farfalle (bowtie) pasta, which is fun to eat and fun to say! (And much better for her than a chicken nugget with barbecue sauce.)

I've made pesto many times so I don't measure anything but I know my non-cooking friends might like some guidance so here is a simple recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. You can adjust the measurements based on your taste buds.

Basil Pesto
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt*
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup (about) extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

*I don't usually add extra salt since Parmesan is a very salty cheese.

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