This simple Italian sauce brings summery flavor to all sorts of dishes, including pizza and pasta. When you plan on freezing pesto, cook the basil briefly in salted water before mixing with the other ingredients; this will help preserve its bright color and fresh taste. Pesto is traditionally made with cheese, but we find it's just as good without (and it freezes better, too). If you like, add a bit of grated Parmesan after pesto has thawed.
Prep time: 30 Minutes
Total time: 30 Minutes
Yield: Makes 1 ¾ cups
- 1 cup walnuts or pine nuts
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 8 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves (4 ounces)
- 2 garlic cloves coarsely chopped
- 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Tips/TechniquesNote: Pesto is best known in pasta dishes, but there are many other ways to use this versatile sauce.
spread on a roasted-vegetable sandwich
stir into vegetable soup
thin with water and vinegar for a salad dressing
mix with mayonnaise to make a dip for vegetables
stir into mashed potatoes
Nutrition InfoPreheat oven to 350°. Spread nuts evenly on a rimmed baking sheet; toast in oven until golden and fragrant, tossing once, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
Meanwhile, bring 4 cups salted water to a boil; add basil, and submerge with a spoon. Immediately drain in a colander. Rinse with cold water until cool, then pat basil completely dry in paper towels.
In a food processor, combine nuts, basil, and garlic; season generously with salt and pepper. Process until nuts are finely chopped. With machine running, pour oil in a steady stream through the feed tube; process until smooth. Use immediately, or freeze. To freeze, spoon pesto into an ice-cube tray (2 tablespoons per cube); cover with plastic wrap. Freeze overnight, then transfer cubes to a resealable plastic bag; keep up to 6 months. Defrost pesto at room temperature, about 20 minutes (or at 30-second intervals in the microwave). Mash with a fork before using in recipes.