An island of happy summer freshness in the cold of winter, fresh basil pesto is full of pine nuts and garlic, and if you close your eyes you can pretend it isn’t twenty degrees outside. This is so easy to make it may become my new “I don’t feel like cooking dinner” dinner. If you can boil water and cook pasta, and have a food processor, you can make this dish.
There are many ways to vary this recipe, such as using walnuts instead of pine nuts or replacing the basil with kale or spinach. I’m a big fan of the original. This version is from the book 365 Ways to Cook Pasta, with my notes of course. If you have leftovers, or if you make an extra batch so you can have leftovers, these can be refrigerated or frozen for enjoying later. Go ahead and plant that extra basil.
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: Food Processor
- 2 cups (4 oz) packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1 large garlic clove, chopped (medium chunks, don't worry about getting it tiny)
- 1/2 cup olive oil (get the good stuff!)
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan or similar cheese, plus extra for garnish
- Salt to taste (a couple of pinches is about right)
- 1 lb pasta, cooked, with 1/2 cup of the cooking water reserved for sauce
- Garnish: diced fresh tomato, a few extra whole basil leaves, and a sprinkle of Parmesan
- Wash the basil leaves very well. Remove any big stems.
- Put basil, pine nuts, and garlic in food processor. With the food processor running, add the oil in a slow steady stream until mixture is finely chopped and well blended. Start adding the oil as soon as you turn it on, no need to wait until it chops the basil - the oil makes it all chop easier. If it doesn't mix together well, turn off the processor and push down the edges with a spatula before continuing.
- Transfer the sauce to a bowl and gently stir in the Parmesan. Add salt to taste.
- Toss hot pasta with the fresh pesto and reserved cooking liquid.
- Serve, garnish, and enjoy with gusto!