Pesto, Presto!

Don't waste your time drying basil when you could be eating pesto.

December 6, 2010

Dried basil tastes remarkably similar to, um, nothing. It is virtually tasteless. Basil, the green goddess of summer, deserves something better than drying. You should preserve its flavor by mixing it up with something fatty (cheese, butter, or olive oil) and freezing it.

Call me biased, but my Italian grandmother (Nona) makes the best pesto* in the world, and this blend of basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil just so happens to be an excellent way to preserve the flavor of basil for use later in soups, dressings, and of course pasta dishes.

To freeze freshly made pesto, line a baking sheet with waxed paper and spoon ¼-cup mounds of pesto onto the sheet. Place the baking sheet into the freezer, and when the mounds are frozen solid, wrap them individually in plastic, seal them in an airtight plastic container, and store them in the freezer. Freeze smaller portions of pesto in ice trays, wrapping the individual cubes in the same manner as the mounds. If you want pure basil flavor, process fresh basil with olive oil in a food processor until it forms a paste, and freeze.

Pesto keeps well frozen for up to one year, but I promise that you'll devour it all before then!



Simple Pesto
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts
3 garlic cloves, finely minced

Pulse basil leaves in food processor until evenly chopped, add nuts, then cheese. Add olive oil to the ingredients while pulsing, until the mixture has a smooth, paste-like consistency.
Use immediately or freeze.
Makes 2 1/2 cups