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Perfect Pesto

Perfect Pesto

001-basilThere’s something very satisfying about making a big batch of beautiful pesto from seasonal summer basil.  I love it and try to have a few jars or containers in the freezer by the end of summer.  Make it when basil is at its best and you’ll have it for months to come.

For this batch I had more basil leaves than I’m used to using, so I had to fudge the ingredient amounts a bit, but the ingredients remain true to real Italian pesto.  Vary amounts slightly if you desire a garlickier or oilier or cheesier pesto, but this worked perfectly.

If pressed, I’d be happy to add a couple more cloves of garlic and a little more cheese, but these can be added later to taste if really necessary.

Gather your ingredients

8 loose cups fresh, in season basil, leaves plucked from their stems
1 cup pine nuts
1 cup finely grated or shredded grana padano (or reggiano)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (you can add more later if you like it saltier)
4-6 cloves gorgeous garlic
1/2-3/4 cup of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil (approx)

01-Prepare_basilStep 1:  pick the leaves lovingly and tenderly off the basil stalks.  If necessary, rinse and spin dry in a salad spinner.

(Yes, that’s a photo of me lovingly and tenderly plucking the leaves from the stalks into the salad spinner.)

Step 2: Toast your pine nuts to a golden perfection.  For this, use a dry pan capable of withstanding high, dry heat and stand beside it watching, tossing and stirring until they are evenly coloured.  DO NOT LEAVE UNATTENDED – they burn at the blink of an eye and they’re too expensive to waste like that.  Remove them from heat as soon as they’re browned and pour into a bowl to cool quickly.

Step 3: grate your cheese and roughly crush your garlic

Step 4:  Have your olive oil and salt at the ready.

02-Ingredients

Time to make some magic

Place the basil into your food processor – if there’s too much, add some, pulse a little, then when it starts to break down and reduce in size, add a little more, until all the basil is in your food processor.

04-pre-blitzAdd the grated cheese, salt, crushed garlic and half the wonderful golden toasted pine nuts and 1/3 of the oil to the basil and start to pulse.

Keep adding olive oil until the pesto has found a consistency of a thick paste.  If you add too much it will separate, but just the right amount will give a glossy finish that’s spoonable, not pourable.

If you’re like me and enjoy keeping some of the pine nuts in larger bits, wait until the end of the blitzing and pour in the remainder you kept aside earlier04-post blitz.

Pulse or blitz just enough for them to keep texture in the pesto.

Place into jars into the fridge, covered with a thin film of olive oil.  This will create a seal as it will harden when cold.

Alternatively, spoon into containers and freeze until required.  You can also use covered ice cube trays, which are handy to pop out just a little at a time to add the fresh taste of summer to your cooking.

05-Pesto-ready

This is gorgeous eaten traditionally with just cooked pasta, topped with extra grated reggiano, accompanied by a nice light red wine.

Buon Appetito.

Since adding this post I’ve used the pesto as a flavour boost on pizza, which you can read about in Friday night pizza – part 3.

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