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:
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.