Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Basil Walnut Pesto

I love to cook, but let's be honest... I also love a good shortcut. I know, call me a bad cook, but pre-made puff pastry? I'm there. Pre-bought canister of breadcrumbs at ready and at hand in the pantry? All over that.

But pesto, my friends, freshly made pesto is NOT one of those things that is just as good pre-made. It is, in fact, exponentially better when freshly made at home. I'm not exaggerating. Once you make your own, you won't ever buy a jar at the grocery store again. I'm serious.

"I have no time!" you say? No, you do. Trust me. It'll be faster to whip this up than to bother stopping at the grocery store on your way home.

"I'm not a cook!" Doesn't matter. If you have the ingredients and you have 5 minutes, you can totally do this.

But enough of the fake, cheesy dialogue before you're tempted to roll your eyes and quit reading before even getting to the good stuff. Onward to tasty and delicious pesto.

I've included the "basic formula" as well, which should let you create dozens upon dozens of fool proof pesto varieties. Basil, pine nuts, parmesan and olive oil is the most basic and traditional pesto. I used walnuts here because the flavor paired nicely with mushroom ravioli for dinner. Also, they're cheaper.

But here's the thing - if you've never made pesto before, certainly start with a classic basil pesto, but by all means - don't stop with it! ANY herb, green, nut or cheese will work. And add- ins, well, those options are endless.

Try leftover cilantro instead of basil and add a little lemon zest for zing.

Or use up some arugula instead for a sharper, more peppery flavor.

Stick with basil as your base, but add some artichoke in for complexity.

(I'm wondering what adding strawberries would do to a simple basil pesto. I'll let you know when I try!)

My Personal Basic Pesto Formula:
2 parts herbs/greens
1 part cheese
1 part nuts
1/2 part olive oil
seasoning (garlic, salt, pepper...)

*add-ins always optional (artichoke, roasted tomato, strawberries etc.)

Ingredients for Walnut Basil Pesto:
2 cups loosely packed basil
1 cup walnuts
1 cup freshly grated parmesan reggiano
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. garlic
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

1. Add basil, walnuts (EXCEPT for a small reserved handful) and cheese to food processor. Pulse until combined.

2. Drizzle olive oil in while processing. Adjust amount as needed to get the texture and thickness you want. (1/2 cup will make it pretty thick. Add more if you want a "saucier" pesto. Just do it gradually... this part is a touch and go process).

3. Add garlic, salt, pepper. Process and taste. Adjust seasoning accordingly, process again.

4. OPTIONAL: Add your reserved walnuts. Pulse only once or twice, and you'll have some larger pieces of walnut mixed in for a more textured, rustic pesto. I love it this way. But if you like your pesto as smooth and suave as possible... skip this step.

Yields: Approx. 2 cups pesto
(but that's a rough estimate... don't hold me to it. It's enough for 4 generous servings over pasta plus a little left over)

And that's all there is to it.

Serve over ravioli. (Buitoni makes a lovely mushroom agnolotti, speaking of pre-made shortcuts. Making my own ravioli from scratch is a definite on my cooking bucket list. But tonight, I wasn't quite all that ambitious.)

Serve spread on toasted garlic bread.

Serve stirred into soup for an extra flavor kick.

And if you have leftovers, freeze in an ice cube tray for ready made portions of pesto whenever you need a fresh herb fix in sauce, soup, or any other sundry recipe you can imagine adding a little pesto to.

Love and pesto,

1 comment:

  1. This was beyond fantastic! Thoroughly enjoyed both the pesto and the bruschetta! Thanks Sweetie...I will definitely try this after watching the master!!! So good!!!!