During harvest season, we just can't get enough fresh basil pesto. Preparing the recipe, itself, takes little time; however, if you grow your own basil, you have to wait patiently during the gardening season to take advantage of the full-grown plants. In warmer climates, basil plants are perinneal but without a greenhouse here in Colorado, I treat mine as annual, bypass growing from seed and purchase small plants in the spring at the Boulder Farmers' Market. Basil plants don't like temperatures below 50 degrees F. The leaves quickly brown with the cooler temperatures. And with Colorado's chilly September evenings, we're rolling the dice many an evening. However, I like to I leave the plants in the ground as long as possible, pulling a few leaves at a time for salads and pasta sauces.
At the very end of the season when crisp evenings are inevitable, we pull the plants one at a time to make fresh basil pesto. It's an abrupt end to the beautiful little bushes but better than watching them brown and wither. One full plant should yield enough leaves for my recipe, which serves six.
If you don't grow your own basil, be prepared to purchase a large quantity of fresh basil - you'll want about 7-8 cups of leaves. The leaves pull off the stems easily but you can also use kitchen shears. I include some young buds in the mix. As long as the buds have not yet formed flowers, they're fine to use.
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
8 oz. pasta, uncooked
8 c fresh basil leaves
4 fresh garlic cloves
1/2 c olive oil
1/2 t salt
1 c freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 c pine nuts, divided
1/4 t cracked pepper, or to taste
While preparing the pesto sauce, cook pasta according to package directions. Place basil leaves in a large colander; rinse and drain. Peel and coarsely chop garlic cloves. Place basil leaves, garlic, olive oil, salt and half of parmesan cheese in food process or blender. Set aside remaining portion of parmesan cheese. Alas, my food processor broke a few weeks ago and I have not taken the time to purchase a new one, so I'm limping along with my blender and it managed nicely with this recipe.
Remove from heat and divide evenly. Place half the nuts in blender or food processor; set aside remaining portion. On medium speed, blend or process the ingredients (minus the reserved cheese, nuts and pepper) until the mixture is uniform in color. You have achieved pesto sauce.
Serve about 2-3 tablespoons of pesto sauce over warm pasta; a little bit goes a long way. Top with pine nuts, parmesan cheese and cracked pepper. The bright green sauce will fade to a darker shade if made ahead of time or refrigerated. However, it still tastes delicious.
Per-serving Nutritional Profile:
Fat, 27 g
Saturated Fat, 5 g
Cholesterol, 10 mg
Carbs, 37 g
Dietary Fiber, 7 g
Protein, 13 g
Sodium, 440 mg
Vitamin A, 45% Daily Value
Vitamin C, 15% Daily Value
Calcium, 25% Daily Value
Iron, 20% Daily Value