Homemade Basil Pesto

We make pestos pretty frequently, but that’s mostly because the herbs in our garden need to be trimmed occasionally. I made one the other day to dress some lamb. It always surprises me when people are impressed by homemade pesto. It literally takes two minutes to make.

Here’s everything you need:

Homemade Basil Pesto

  • 3 big handfuls of fresh basil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, depending on the size
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • As much olive oil as needed to mix the ingredients (maybe 1/3 cup)

If you don’t have an herb garden, pesto can be relatively expensive to make. Pine nuts cost a pretty penny and those little containers of prepackaged herbs are a rip-off. To save some money, it’s fine to substitute spinach for 2/3 of the basil and use toasted almonds instead of pine nuts. One thing you can’t substitute is real parmesan cheese.

To begin, lightly toast the pine nuts over medium-low heat in a nonstick pan. The nuts contain their own oil, so you don’t need to add any. They can burn quickly, so shake the pan often. Some people sauté the garlic with the nuts. I don’t, but it’s not a bad idea if you’re turned off by raw garlic.

Meanwhile, chop the parmesan into cubes. You just want to make it easy to fit everything into the food processor. If you have a big, expensive food processor, you can probably omit this step. With my tiny machine, I end up with big chunks of garlic and cheese if I don’t prep everything beforehand. When the nuts are toasted, drop all of the ingredients into the food processor. Put the heavy stuff on the bottom.

Pour the olive oil through the holes in the lid and process until the whole mass starts to move. I like my pesto a little chunky, so I don’t add too much oil. Others like it swimming in oil and processed smooth. You can also add a little lemon juice and crushed red pepper to give it some zip.

Finally, season the pesto to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and toss it with some pasta. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and a little more olive oil.

Homemade Basil Pesto
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