OK so your basil is practically waving to you as you walk by, saying “pick me, pick me”. Once basil starts to grow, there’s no stopping. (Check out my blog tip on pruning basil for a continued harvest). There’s a huge interest in making pesto along with lots of questions about ingredients, like whether nuts are essential. No, and walnuts make a good substitute for pine nuts. Should you add garlic if you want to freeze the pesto, or add it after thawing? I add both nuts and garlic to my pesto prior to freezing, but some food gurus say leave them out since, in their opinion, these items turn strong in the freezer.
I use my food processor, but you could use a blender or make this by hand. This is a thicker pesto which freezes well.
Add more oil after thawing, if you like. Sometimes I’ll add a bit of pasta water to pesto if I’m using it to coat pasta.
(And a tip here: when draining pasta, always save a cup or so of water to add to sauce if necessary. So you don’t forget, place a LIQUID MEASURING CUP in the colander before you drain the pasta.
Rita’s freezer pesto
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted if desired
1/2 stick unsalted butter (optional but good)
Generous handful parsley leaves
4 generous cups basil leaves, packed
1-1/4 cups Parmesan cheese or to taste
1/4 cup Romano cheese
1/2 to 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Generous squeeze of lemon juice
With processor’s motor running, add garlic and nuts. Add everything else and using the pulse button, pulse until just mixed, then pour into containers and freeze. Now if you want to be a purist, here are some tips:
Why does my pesto turn dark?
- Basil oxidizes rapidly when leaves are cut up either too finely and/or exposed to air, so use the pulse button to mix. That also alleviates heat while processing, which can turn the basil dark.
- Blanch the basil leaves to keep them green – I’ve done this but it’s too much work for me.
Add parsley and lemon juice to keep the green color.
- Pouring a thin film of oil over the top before storing may keep enough air out, as well. And sometimes, even if you take those steps, it still may get dark. Don’t worry, it’s a visual thing and doesn’t affect the quality or taste.