My Sundays are usually reserved for long stretches of time on the couch, but every once in a while I do something productive. This past Sunday, I ventured home to spend time with my mom and make a couple of batches of pesto. I have the most ridiculous basil plant I’ve ever seen. It’s huge, and I planned on making pesto for myself and a few friends at the end of the summer season. My mom beat me to the punch by visiting City Market in Kansas City, Mo., on Saturday. She picked up huge bunches of sweet basil for $1 apiece. They were a good find. She also got fresh parmesan cheese from the Italian market. We had the beginnings of something great, if we could figure out how to do it.
We took the base recipe from allrecipes.com and added our own touches. We added the juice of an entire lemon, salt and pepper, more olive oil than the recipe called for to give it a more liquid texture, and we roasted the pine nuts to give it some depth of flavor.
Pesto is one of those things that you can customize. My mom really wants one with sun-dried tomatoes. My friend Kelsey used to put almonds in her pesto rather than pine nuts. Me? Well, I like the traditional stuff.
I like adding pesto to store-bought cheese tortellini with some bacon. I also like adding it to orzo and throwing in some feta cheese and cubed pieces of chicken.
Pesto can be used as a marinade, as well. According to my mom, it gives great flavor to thick-cut pork chops. Below is the recipe my mom and I used to make our pesto. It makes about three cups, but play with it and experiment. All you need is a food processor and infinite creativity. You just might come up with something incredible.
Makes 3 cups
6 cups sweet basil leaves
1 1/2 cups of grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 cup olive oil
8 cloves of garlic
The juice of 1 lemon and its zest
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Roast pine nuts in a dry skillet until fragrant. Set aside to cool.
2. Place parmesan cheese into food processor. Pulse until grated
3. Pick basil leaves off stems. Add to food processor.
4. Add pine nuts to the bowl of food processor. Blend pine nuts, basil and cheese until it becomes a paste.
5. Slowly add the olive oil until it reaches the desired consistency. After blending, add lemon juice, zest and salt and pepper. Pulse until combined.
6. Pour into airtight containers and store in the fridge. Refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.
—Adapted from allrecipes.com