The aroma of basil can transform a meal into a delight.
Pesto is very easy to make. The word 'pesto' means to pound or crush, which is what you do to make this yummy addition to pasta, meat, fish and sauces. Once you try it, you will probably want to start growing your own basil on a window sill or in the garden! Growing your own pine nuts is another story altogether. Stone pine trees take 20 years or more to start producing edible nuts (but I planted one anyway!)
This recipe is one of those that does not require specific measuring. I use a 1970's food processor that still runs like a pro!
Peel an entire garlic and pulse in the food processor until it is chopped finely.
Rinse enough basil to fill your food processor and pat dry. Remove the leaves and add to the food processor. Pulse until the basil and garlic are pulverized. Add olive oil as you mix, to keep everything moving, but use it sparingly.
Take a large handful of pine nuts and place in a dry nonstick pan over medium heat. Stir gently until the nuts start to turn light brown. (They smell wonderful!) Once the pine nuts have browned a little, add them to the food processor along with a little more oil and pulse thoroughly, adding more oil as needed. Add salt to taste and mix well.
I make large batches of pesto and then freeze it into serving sizes. For my husband and I, that means spraying a muffin tin with Pam and mounding the pesto into each cup. Then I cover the tin with plastic and freeze. Once frozen, I remove the pesto orbs from the tin and place them in a freezer bag. When it is time to cook, I thaw one orb before adding it to whatever I am making.
Traditionally, pesto also includes a healthy portion of Parmesan cheese. Freezing the pesto with the Parmesan already incorporated does't seem to work very well (the cheese sticks to everything), so I add it at the end.
For a fast, amazing side dish, cook up some pasta (I prefer radiotore pasta because all those little nooks and crannies really hang on to the pesto!) and drain it into a colander. Turn down the heat and add some butter to the pan you just used to boil the pasta. Stir in a goodly portion of pesto. Then add the pasta back into the pan. Just before serving, stir in some grated Parmesan for a new family favorite!
If you have more time, try Pesto Turkey!
[A note on Parmesan cheese - this is one ingredient that is worth buying the Good Stuff. Cheaper varieties often contain fillers that add nothing to your dish and can make some recipes fail miserably.]