Save your basil with pesto
As summer winds down, I start strategizing ways to preserve my warm-weather goodies for the colder months to come.
I wish you could smell my kitchen in the summer. Fresh basil is, to me, one of the joys of summer. Every year I prolong that joy by making and freezing large batches of pesto to eat through the colder months.
You can make pesto out of green garlic, carrot top…you can even make pesto out of spinach, arugula, kale, or sun-dried tomatoes but Genoese/Genovese basil pesto is what you probably think of first. Whether you grew up eating it or it’s a new arrival to your table, I feel that basil pesto is one of those “great equalizer foods” – like burritos or hummus, almost everyone seems to like it.
Serve pesto on pasta, chicken breast, as a dip (straight or as a flavoring), mix into an omelette filling or hummus, or use it as a herb paste for soup or stews. Most shelf-life recommendations for frozen pesto say three months, but I’ve frozen it twice as long with little loss of flavor.
I usually use plastic freezer containers and freeze the pesto in 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup quantities. If you have any unused ice cube trays lying around, you can also pack those with pesto to freeze, then pop out the cubes once solid and store them in a freezer bag.
Below is the basic recipe, which makes about 1 cup pesto; if you have more basil (like I did!) then size up ingredient quantities proportionately. I had about 10 cups of basil this morning and made about 4 cups of pesto to freeze.
- 2 packed cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup chopped nuts*, toasted if you can
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
*So, pine nuts are traditional in Genoa Italy, which is where this recipe comes from. But I think pine nuts are prohibitively expensive. I like to use pecans or almonds, sometimes pistachios. I do recommend toasting them for even better flavor.
- Combine the basil, nuts, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Use the pulse button to process until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, stream in 1/2 cup of olive oil and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
- Divide among freezer-safe containers and pour remaining oil over the top (this helps protect against freezer burn).
You may notice that this recipe doesn’t contain cheese. I find that it freezes better without it. You can stir in grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano when you thaw it out to eat.
I usually ask if you have any questions at the end of a post, but I’ve got a question for you! There’s an optional step that I didn’t take you through here: blanching the basil before processing in order to preserve the greenest color. I’d love to hear if you do this and feel it’s worth it.
If you DO have questions about freezing or canning, or anything else nutrition-related, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.