This pesto recipe is from Giada De Laurentiis, with a few of my additional points and details. I just love the mouthwatering smell of this basil pesto filling the whole kitchen.
Pesto is not only a simple, yet delicious appetizer on toasted bread, but it can be used as a sauce or dressing on so many other things: Toss warm pasta in it, pour it onto grilled fish, dress your chicken salad with it, use it to make a pesto lasagna...
Just as overwhelming is the variety of ingredients that you can choose to create different types of pesto: You can use spinach or cilantro instead of basil (or a combination of all), or vegetables like green peas or artichokes instead of leafy greens; you can use other types of nuts, like walnuts or pistachios instead of pine nuts; you can make a "red" pesto with sun-dried tomatoes or roasted red peppers... The possibilities really are endless... After all, pesto is this fantastic combination of olive oil, parmesan and garlic; as long as you have the right ratio (which is key for any dip or spread) you can't go wrong with the taste.
Ingredients: (Makes about 1 cup)
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves (about 1 oz.),
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup parmesan, finely grated
- Put the pine nuts in a non-stick pan and toast them on medium-high heat for only a few minutes until they start to turn color and to smell (move them around in the pan a few times, so they brown evenly; and do not walk away at all since they may burn very quickly). Set aside to cool.
- Put the garlic, basil leaves, salt and pine nuts into a food processor and process/pulse until they are finely and evenly chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the olive oil and process until there is a thick, yet smooth consistency, add more oil if necessary.
- Transfer to a bowl and stir in the parmesan.
- The amount of olive oil you will add also depends on how you are going to use the pesto. If you want to serve it as a spread, use less oil; if as a sauce or dressing, you may want to add more.
- Try not to skip the step of toasting the nuts, the additional flavor of toasting does make a difference in the taste and texture of the pesto.
- Fresh basil sold in grocery stores contains both leaves and stems, and sometimes there are a few flower buds, too. You need to discard the buds and the stems (and the leaves that do not look in good shape); that leaves you with almost half the package; for example if you buy a 4-oz fresh basil package/bundle, you will have 2 oz. fresh basil leaves to use for pesto.