Vegnesday Part I: Home-made Pesto

It seems like 90% of recipes available online pretty unimaginatively imply that pesto can only be made with pine nuts, basil, and Parmesan.  Granted, that’s the traditional Italian recipe, but I like The Kitchn’s recipe because it points out that “green + nuts + cheese + olive oil = awesome sauce, literally.”  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with suiting your own tastes and/or using what’s on hand by switching out the basil for another herb or leafy green, replacing the (crazy expensive) pine nuts with a different favorite nut, or swapping the Parmesan for any other hard cheese.  Down with dogma in the kitchen!

I made this because I’ve got a big honking pot of basil in the backyard that I need to use, and my edamame basil hummus alone barely made a dent.  See Part II for a quick and easy recipe for pesto & cheese panini, made with the focaccia bread that I made yesterday (but also easily thrown together with store-bought bread and pesto).

Pesto 1
Exhibit A: Big honkin’ pot o’ basil.

Ingredients (makes about 1 cup)

5 to 6 ounces (2 big bunches or about 6 cups gently packed) fresh basil leaves, or any other green, divided
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, or any other nut
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, or any other hard cheese
2 to 4 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Pesto 2

Equipment

Blender or food processor

Instructions

  • Blend half the basil with the nuts, cheese, and garlic.  Place 1/2 of the basil in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment or blender.  Add the nuts, cheese, garlic, and salt and process or blend until the ingredients are finely chopped.
  • Blend in the rest of the basil.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl or pitcher and add the remaining basil.  Process or blend until a uniform paste has formed, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl or pitcher as needed.
  • Stream in the olive oil.  With the motor running, stream in the olive oil.  Less olive oil will make a paste good for spreading on sandwiches and pizzas; more will make a sauce better for pastas and stirring into soup.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl or pitcher and continue blending as needed until the olive oil is emulsified into the basil and the pesto looks uniform.
  • Taste and adjust.  Taste the pesto and add more salt, garlic, nuts, or cheese as needed.
Pesto 4
To maintain the green color, tightly seal the pesto in the smallest container it fits in, and you can pour a thin layer of olive oil over the surface to protect it from the air.

Did you like this recipe?  See Part II for a recipe for Pesto & Cheese Panini, and/or like Aching for a Baking on Facebook to get others like it in your news feed!

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