One of the delights of summer is the chance to eat fresh from the garden, and one of my favorite sauces to make is basil pesto. Mama Daily Green and I used to make batches of it every summer and freeze it for the winter, but nothing will ever top that first batch. The other night I made the season's first pesto. Everyone's recipe varies a little, but I'll share mine, along with the variations.
The word pesto comes from the Italian word pestare, meaning to pound. Traditional pestos are made in a mortar and pestle, but I use a food processor.
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts (I like to toast them first)
5 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Wash and spin dry the basil leaves. Add loosely to food processor and begin to pulse while streaming the olive oil in the processor. Add nuts & garlic and pulse until it's a smooth paste. Add the cheese, salt, and pepper last and then by eye, add enough oil until the paste reaches your desired consistency. Some folks like a firm paste for spreading on bread, or a more thin paste to serve over hot pasta.
Pesto can also be made from radish tops, sage, or spinach. The nuts and oil can be switched, and you can add lemon peel for a fresh flavor. The food processor makes the job go fast.
Basil is high in vitamins K and A and raw garlic is a fantastic antioxidant, great source of vitamin B6 and C.