From the looks of it, I have one last time to gather basil from my pots outside. This pesto is absolutely, positively its fate. I must admit, basil pesto recipes don’t vary THAT much, so I almost hesitated to put this one out there. But I tested it plenty over the summer, and I believe this is the perfect ratio for excellent flavor, and doesn’t go overboard on the oil or garlic. I use both walnuts and pine nuts, both for flavor purposes, and to make it easier on your wallet. (Where I’m at, pine nuts are still pretty expensive!) I also toast them, which is optional but recommended. This pesto freezes beautifully, and man does it taste good in the middle of winter.
Classic Basil Pesto
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
4 large garlic cloves (if yours are pretty small, use 6 – 7)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly grated black pepper
3/4 – 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
To clean your basil, wash by swirling in water, then spin in a salad spinner. Lay on a towel until completely dry.
Preheat your oven or toaster oven to 350 F. (If this step is the one thing holding you back, just toss the nuts into the food processor raw. I’d argue the depth of toasty walnuts and pine nuts is superior, but your pesto will still be delicious if you skip this step.)
Toast the nuts until just starting to get golden and fragrant – 3 to 5 minutes. Don’t let them burn! Transfer nuts to a food processor fitted with the “S” blade. Pulse several times until nuts are chopped into small pieces. Add 4 large cloves of peeled garlic and turn the speed to low, until everything looks crumbly (and smells amazing!).
Add half of the basil leaves and process on low until well combined. Scrape down the sides. Add the parmesan, salt and pepper, then turn to high. Start to drizzle in olive oil through the feed tube, until you’ve added about a 1/2 cup.
Open the top, scrape down the sides, and add the rest of the basil leaves. Put the top back on, turn to high and immediately start to drizzle another 1/4 cup of the olive oil in. You may need to scrape the sides and process on high again to get the pesto thoroughly pureed. If needed, add up to 1/4 cup more olive oil, to get a smooth pesto.
Enjoy immediately, or freeze in glass jars with an inch of room left on top (for expansion in the freezer). To defrost, simply transfer to the refrigerator several hours/a day in advance, or place in a bowl of warm water to thaw, changing the water as necessary.
In looking at the jars pictured below, I can hardly believe these were from July. But it’s sweet September, and here we are. The last fresh batch of pesto in 2016 is upon us.