Presto Basil Pesto (Nut Free)
Pesto, an aromatic herb sauce or paste, originated in Northern Italy and is used very commonly in Italian cooking. Traditionally it is made with toasted pine nuts but there are nut free variations as well. Every now and then I have tried different pesto based dishes and always amazed how this fragrant and flavorful perks up otherwise plain pasta or chicken recipes. However, it wasn’t until I noticed that my son liked a Pesto Chicken Fettuccine dish from a local Italian restaurant that I decided to give it a try in my every day cooking.
I read this recipe in Woman’s day magazine and immediately wanted to try it. However, my busy schedule did not really permit me until last weekend. Ironically, it takes less than 5 minutes to make it. The only thing you need to plan for his having fresh basil leaves on hand that was the hard part for me. If you are growing them in your backyard or in a container on your windowsill you are in luck and you don’t need to wait like me to buy couple of ‘live plants’ from the grocery store and make it as soon as I bought it to preserver freshness!
2 cups fresh basil leaves (firmly packed)
6 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
3-4 garlic cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper (for making it my ‘toddler friendly’ I did not add any)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
dash of lemon juice (optional)
1. In a food processor, combine all ingredients except the oil. Pulse until a thick paste is formed.
2. Add oil slowly and blend until well combined. I just used my Magic Bullet to blend the ingredients.
3. Transfer to an airtight container and press plastic wrap directly onto Pesto to prevent browning. Cover with lid.
Mine came out little runny as you can see in the picture. I had little less than 2 cups of Basil leaves, After refrigerating, I removed the extra oil later. Next time I just have to make sure I have ‘firmly packed’ two cups as the recipe calls for.
You can refrigerate up to 4 days and freeze up to 3 months.
I absolutely loved this tip in Woman’s Day magazine: divide the leftovers into an ice cube tray, seal it tightly with plastic wrap and freeze. Since Pesto has a very concentrated flavor, you will not use more than a cube or two at any time (unless coating large quantities of meat!). Later pop out a cube, defrost in microwave and use it in:
1. Soups: Minestrone, Lentil, vegetable or chicken soup
2. Add to pasta sauces – Marinara, Alfredo
3. Coat fish/chicken, grill
4. Spread on sandwiches
5. Mix with cream cheese and serve as a spread for crackers
I would say sky is the limit…and this is the just the beginning of my adventures with Pesto! Obediently, I saved one serving and froze the rest for later. I also found out that there are variations with Spinach, mint, cilantro, almonds and so on – so I guess there is more experimenting to do as well.