And everyone knows, the best way to use copious amounts of basil is to make PESTO! I make a lot during the summer and freeze it for future use. When freezing, the one thing you want to remember to do is omit the cheese — it messes up the texture. Then after the pesto is thawed and heated, add grated parmesan to it.
Traditional pesto is made with pine nuts, which can be really expensive. I buy the Chinese ones instead of the Spanish ones. Also, you can substitute walnuts for the pine nuts if the price is too great in your area.
You just process the nuts with basil, garlic, parmesan, salt, and olive oil, and you end up with a great sauce. You can also thin the sauce with some hot pasta water (from the pot you boiled your pasta in).
I also love pesto on sauteed zucchini “pasta”. You may like this low carb alternative.
Another great pesto sauce is a creamy version. Heat cream cheese and milk in a sauce pan, whisk until smooth, and then whisk in about 2 large spoonfuls of pesto. It makes a wonderfully creamy pesto sauce that is not as rich and fattening as one made with heavy cream.
Which do you prefer? Regular or creamy pesto sauce?
1/4 to 1/2 cup pine nuts
a huge bunch of basil leaves, washed and dried
2 garlic cloves, smashed
about 1/4 cup olive oil or more as needed
grated parmesan to taste
kosher salt to taste
1. Toast pine nuts. I use my toaster oven. Watch carefully, because they brown quickly! You could also toast them in a skillet on the stove. Keep stirring and watch them so you don’t burn them. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Wash and dry basil leaves.
3. Process basil in a food processor until chopped up fine. Add garlic and pine nuts and process until fine. While processor is running, add olive oil until the mixture becomes smooth. Add grated cheese if you plan to use immediately, rather than freezing the pesto. Taste. Add salt if you think it needs it. Or more olive oil.
4. Cook pasta until al dente. Dress with the pesto sauce — thin if you need to with pasta water.
Creamy Pesto Sauce
1/2 cup light cream cheese
1/4 cup milk
2 large spoonfuls of regular pesto sauce (see above)
1. Heat cream cheese and milk in saucepan over low to medium heat. Slowly whisk together until smooth.
2. Whisk in dollops of pesto sauce.
3. Serve over you favorite pasta.