If there was ever a super simple recipe that seemed to cause so much angst it had to have been Pesto! I actually credit all the weirder recipes out there for things like Radish Top Pesto (and yeah, I have a recipe on my site, and one for Fresh Pea Pesto, too, and that’s pretty amazing, and I don’t even like peas) for getting cooks to loosen up a bit!! These days pesto is being made out of just about anything and everything, and I’m for all it! Greens & Nuts are always good for you. But the recipe here, for Pesto to Use or Freeze is the absolute classic Pesto.
And while this is a recipe for classic Pesto, that doesn’t mean you don’t have any room to play! Isn’t that one of the greatest things about cooking something and making it your own, as they say?!
About Pesto to Use or Freeze:
So the most Classic Pesto, the OG Pesto, is Pesto alla Genovese as far as I know and originated in the city of Genoa. There are just a handful of ingredients. You’ll need basil, garlic, and pine nuts along with salt (preferably sea salt) to taste. And for cheese, the King of cheeses, Parmesan or Pecorino. Blend all that with olive oil and you have Pesto. Alright, I’m done. Nothing more to say. Goodbye!
Ok, seriously, when can I ever stop typing or talking for that matter, lol!! But even staying within these strict pesto guidelines, you can still tinker a bit and not be too far off. Make it just how you like it, more garlicky or less, saltier or not, and of course, you can even add just a teensy bit of red pepper flakes if ya wanna go wild! At least for me, that’s wild, but then I lead a pretty tame life, obvs! Make it as fine or as chunky as you’d like or as thick or as want; I personally like to make a good, thick pesto if I’m serving with pasta, that way I have the latitude of using a bit of pasta water as I toss everything together and it turns into a creamy sauce. And it freezes well like that, too.
But beyond that, there’s so many ways to use your Pesto! I toss some in my Pesto Pasta Salad With Grilled Vegetables, and I could just about go on forever, but maybe you’d like to take a peek at over 50 Things to Make with Pesto by the Food Network. What can I say? That will keep me busy for a while!
Making Pesto to Use or Freeze:
So the traditional way to make Pesto is with a marble mortar and a wooden pestle. There’s even a contest in Italy where everyone lines up and makes it that way. I make mine all the time in the food processor; a good blender or something along the line of a Nutribullet works very well, too.
There are all kinds of things people to do prevent their pesto from turning brown. Good old Cook’s Illustrated tested several and found two methods they like. The first is to quickly blanch the basil in boiling water. Bring a good-sized pot of water to a boil, fill a metal strainer with your pesto (or part of it, depending on how much you are making) and dunk the strainer, basil and all in the water for 30 seconds. Immediately plunge into ice water to shock it (stop the cooking process), then remove the strainer, empty out the basil onto a clean towel and pat dry. The other way is to add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice per two cups of packed basil leaves.
If I freeze Pesto, I always blanch first. The enzyme that causes browning isn’t affected by freezing, so the pesto will deteriorate over time if not blanched; it will probably be fine for a few weeks if only lemon juice is used. To freeze pesto, just divide into portions, add it to a Ziploc and flatten the bag as you squeeze out as much air as possible. Pesto will keep like that for several months and still be at a great quality when you pull it out to use it. I usually thaw by tossing it on the counter for an hour. If I just want a small amount, I can open the bag of frozen pesto, break off a little and reclose the bag. Easy peasy. I hardly ever mess with ice cubes for this or that; in the freezer, they always meld together and they take up a lot of room all ganged up in a Ziploc.
Saving Money on Pesto to Use or Freeze:
A store-bought Pesto costs about $4.99 for a seven-ounce (about a cup) container, so if you were buying as much as this recipe makes, you’d be spending about 10 bucks.
Grow your own herbs, in the yard or in a pot…it’s so much better and a huge cost savings. This pesto, using my basil, grocery store olive oil, pine nuts, and Parmesan ran $1.72.
There’s no doubt that pine nuts can be very pricy. Pesto alla Genovese uses European pine nuts. I use whatever I can get my hands on for a reasonable price. Check online. Nut Houses sometimes have amazing prices. Failing that it doesn’t hurt to keep your eye out at the store; you may find a big variance in the pricing.
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, stems removed
- 1/2 cup pine nuts (pignolia)
- 1 dash salt
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated
Add basil, pine nuts, salt, to a food processor, Pulse several times and while pulsing, drizzle in olive oil, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Add cheese and pulse about 2 to 3 more times. If too thick, add a little more olive oil.
Use immediately. If planning on storing in the fridge or freezing, prior to making the pesto, either use 2 teaspoons of lemon juice for every cup of packed basil leaves or blanch the basil for 30 seconds in boiling water. After blanching, place in ice water to stop the cooking process, drain. Place the basil on a clean towel and pat dry before continuing with the recipe.