The Joy of Pesto

Nothing screams fresh and bright like good pesto. Personally, I am a fan when it’s tempered with some sweet and juicy tomatoes diced atop the final dish. Last night, in a superheroic effort to save some on the brink basil, I made pesto with what was at hand. It was good, really good, but there was a blender fail. Can this pesto be saved? Read on.

The Journey Begins: Basil in the Blender

The Journey Begins: Basil in the Blender

I’m pretty sure I’ve always made pesto in the blender, but while my water was boiling furiously, and this picture is lovely, it would not blend. There was some language used that was less than gentle. But never fear, Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook soldiers on.

Pulverized Basil, or Pesto, in the Food Processor

Pulverized Basil, or Pesto, in the Food Processor

I heart my Kitchen Aid Food Processor more than I can say right now. A few seconds later, I had pesto and was able to complete the dish.

Tortellini with Pesto and Tomatoes

Tortellini with Pesto and Tomatoes

If I had a true recipe here, I would share it, but lean in and I’ll tell you a secret: you can make pesto out of almost anything. Yes, it’s true, as long as you have a few key flavor elements, it will work nicely.

The Elements of Pesto

1. Something Green. Basil is the leading contender, and I like to add a bit of parsley for brightness. But I’ve made pesto from spinach and just parsley before when basil went MIA.

2. Something Nutty. Though I’ve made pesto without nuts for family, I prefer the nuts. Toast them before for flavor, pine nuts are traditional, but walnuts are great, and I’ve used pistachios in a Greek version.

3. Garlic. Accept no substitutes.

4. Cheese. Parmesan or Romano are traditional, but feta and cottage are lovely too. Try a combo, and alter based on the flavor profile you’re seeking.

5. Olive Oil. Do not skimp or use crappy stuff. You can taste it in the final dish, pick a flavor you like and go for it.

Tips: Frankly, I toss all the stuff into the food processor (now that I’ve learned my lesson) and blend. Add salt and pepper to taste and adjust seasonings and elements to suit yourself. If it’s dry, add more oil, bland, add more cheese or green, or a little more salt.

And most importantly, make a big batch while you’re doing it, and freeze the leftovers in cubes, to be whipped out like a magician during a future feeding emergency.

Pesto Cubes Heading for the Freezer

Pesto Cubes Heading for the Freezer

Pesto is a natural with pasta, but try it over a stronger tasting fish or chicken. I had some of the best beef shortribs of my life that featured a pesto drizzle. Use your pesto in small portions, but with creativity, and you’ll never look back.

Are you a pesto fan? Purist or experimental? Share your thoughts by posting a comment below, or Tweet!

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Tomorrow, we conclude the week with German Chocolate Cake and Frosting Recipe.


Filed under Can this supper be saved?, Punt!, Recipes

4 responses to “The Joy of Pesto

  1. holden

    I have used toasted spanish peanuts with a nice result. I made a big batch last week and put it over a box of bowtie pasta, lunch for a long while.

    • The Practical Cook

      I’m so glad you shared that–peanuts are the one and only I haven’t tried. There you have it folks, ground nut, tree nut, anything but wing nut works in pesto!

  2. angela

    We must be on the same wavelength this week because not an hour ago, I pulverized up a batch of pesto in my own trusty mini food processor. I’m a purist when it comes to pesto (basil all the way!) and I usually freeze the extras in ice cube trays. My basic recipe comes from Moosewood Cooks at Home, in which one is advised to omit the cheese when freezing. Not sure why, but it does give a nice sharp punch of salty flavor to add the cheese to the defrosted pesto cubes just before use.
    All-time favorite 15-minute summer dinner = farm-grown tomatoes (sliced w/salt+pepper) and corn on the cob (butter, lots of butter) with pesto pasta

    • The Practical Cook

      Mmmm, that sound delightful! I’ve read that about the cheese myself, and I have been known to add a fresh grind of parm to the cube.

      Love your perfect summer meal. Delicious!

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