Autumn Basil Bounty? Pesto!

Freezer Pesto -- step-by-step @

Make this freezer gem now!


It’s been a banner year for basil around here — regular rain and moderate temperatures have left us with a big, beautiful plant loaded with those fragrant green leaves that speak summer to me. Now is the moment for pesto — pesto for tonight’s pasta supper and pesto for the freezer to enjoy during frigid days when fresh basil is a fond-but-distant memory. There are four things I love about pesto:

1. Freezer pesto is one of those satisfying kitchen jobs that just makes me feel happy.

2. It’s one of the main reasons I love my food processor.

3. It is a feast for the senses: It’s just the coolest thing ever to shove handfuls of leaves through the processor’s feed-tube and watch them transform magically before my eyes. The aroma — so fulsome, so utterly unique — it fills the house for the rest of the day, so everyone knows what I’ve been doing and what’s for supper from the moment they walk through the door. And the flavor — the intensity is almost too much, but it leaves me wanting to taste it again and again.

4. I love to say the very word: PESTO! Put the emphasis on the first syllable and it’s like saying POW! PESto packs a POWerful wallop!

And here is how I make pesto to eat fresh and for the freezer:

Basil Pesto for the Freezer

Harvest the basil before frost turns it brown and sad.

Basil Pesto for the Freezer @

A useful old cookbook

Basil Pesto for the Freezer

The basic recipe I use for the freezer, in batches x6 (the amount that will fit in my processor in one go), minus the Parmesan and with somewhat less oil

Basil Pesto for the Freezer

Toasting the pine nuts — use LOW heat and be patient — these babies will burn when you turn your attention away from them

Basil Pesto for the Freezer

Removing basil leaves from the stems — I do not wash the basil before use. There are no pesticides to worry about, and I try to harvest AFTER we’ve had a nice rain and the leaves have dried in the sun. Inspect each leaf as you work, because you’ll sometimes find…

Basil Pesto for the Freezer

…one of these — anybody know what sort of critter makes this little web of cotton?

Basil Pesto for the Freezer

About to give the garlic cloves a smack with the bottom of the skillet to loosen their skins — such a satisfying thing to do!

Basil Pesto for the Freezer

Pesto ready to divide and freeze; this is the yield from 8 c. of leaves instead of my usual 6 c.

Basil Pesto for the Freezer

I scoop pesto into mini-muffin tin wells, freeze for a day or two, and then bag them in a heavy ziploc. Pesto without cheese freezes best, so I add cheese when I use them if desired.

Lori’s Basil Pesto for the Freezer

makes about 1 quart

6 garlic cloves, peeled

3/4 c. pine nuts, toasted and cooled

6 c. firmly-packed fresh basil leaves

1 T. coarse Kosher salt (or less of finer salts)

1 t. ground black pepper

1 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

Start the food processor and drop the garlic cloves through the feed tube. When the garlic stops whirling around and has transformed into bits stuck to the sides of the work-bowl, turn off the processor and scrape the work-bowl. Add the pine nuts and process until finely ground. Scrape the sides of the work-bowl again. Add the basil leaves and process until finely ground. Scrape the sides of the work-bowl again.  Add the salt and pepper. With the processor running, add the olive oil in a thin steady stream until it is incorporated and a sauce has formed. If you are using the pesto immediately, you may want to add 1 rounded cup of grated best-quality Parmesan to the pesto. For the freezer, leave out the cheese.

Scoop the pesto into mini or standard muffin tins. Freeze for a day or two until solid. Run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of each pesto “muffin” to pop it out of the tin. Bag the  pesto and return to the freezer quickly. It will stay fresh for at least a year if you keep it well-wrapped.

To use, I simply thaw the desired amount at room temperature for use on pizza dough, with pasta, or in dips and spreads. To use it in minestrone, I add frozen pesto to the almost-finished soup and let it simmer a few more minutes to thaw the pesto.

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  1. Posted October 14, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Oooh, now I’m hungry.

    • Posted October 14, 2014 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      I know — writing about these things makes me crave them all over again.

  2. Cami Bunting
    Posted October 14, 2014 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    Loved reading this, enjoying the pictures and I actually think I caught a scent of the basil!

    • Posted October 15, 2014 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      I’m fairly sure my fingers *still* smell like basil, Cami. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Friend.

  • Your comment is the best part of this blog! Share what’s on your mind here.

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