I love basil, but for years I couldn’t bring myself to eat pesto. I guess I overdid it back in the 90s. And who could blame me? I was living in New York, and everywhere I turned restaurants were serving what we laughingly referred to as “yuppie pasta.” Think noodles of all shapes, colors and sizes loaded with chicken, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto. Sometimes there were capers. Often there were olives. I don’t even want to think about all the other ingredients that enthusiastically but unwisely found their way into the bowl.
But back to pesto.
For most of the summer, I used up cups upon cups of basil in Creamy Basil and Zucchini Soup. Now my freezer is stocked with more of that soup than my family will probably want to eat. Faced with a box of basil my kids and I picked at my CSA’s Harvest Festival this weekend, I knew it was time to rethink my relationship with pesto.
Since then I’ve tried several recipes, some with more oil and some with less; some with all basil and some with parsley; some with walnuts and some with pine nuts; some with 4 cloves of garlic instead of 2. This is my favorite version. If you’re freezing it, don’t add the parmesan cheese until you’re ready to use it. And put it in an ice-cube tray until frozen, then remove the frozen blocks and put them in a double Ziploc.
When you’re making pesto, don’t worry about exact proportions. If you have more basil, add a little more extra virgin olive oil. If you like yours thinner, add a lot more oil. If your kids hate garlic, use two cloves instead of four.
In this batch, I added more oil. In the next batch, I opted for less oil. The former will be great over pasta. The latter — since it’s thicker — will be wonderful with grilled chicken. We ate it with steak for dinner last night as a stand-in for chimichurri, the tangy herb-based sauce used with beef in Argentina, and my son ran his finger over the bowl to scoop up every last bit.
2 cups basil, washed and dried
2-4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Put all ingredients into a food processor and puree. Many recipes call for parmesan cheese, but I prefer to add it to the dish rather than the sauce.