The Down and Dirty of Putting Up Pesto (a no-recipe recipe)

Every year I make a big batch of pesto and freeze it.  I’ve just come down from an agonizing month of final run edits for my 3rd novel, and don’t have it in me to measure ingredients. And I sure as hell won’t go the traditional way of concocting this herbaceous bliss by blending my ingredients in a mortar and pestle (hence, the name).

Labor Day weekend is allowing me time to spend a few hours putting up pesto, insuring a bad winter day will be brightened by this taste-of-summer treat. So the clock’s ticking and I’m moving fast.

A bridal bouquet of basil. Oh, the fragrance–my aromatherapy preference!

At the farmers market today, I purchased six huge bunches of fresh basil. (My tiny plot failed because of Michigan’s cold and rainy spring.) After trimming the leaves from the stems, and washing the leaves twice, I pureéd them in my processor with lots and lots of extra virgin olive oil. (All told, I used a quart of Trader Joe’s Greek Kalamata extra virgin olive oil. Of course, a good Italian or Spanish oil is fine, too.)

I’ve a mish-mash of assorted nuts, mostly pine nuts (my favorite for pestos), but I wanted to use up the stragglers. Soooo, I fattened up the pile of pine nuts with almonds and pecans and toasted the lot in a dry pan to enhance their innate nuttiness. After that, into the food processor they went. I pulsed the batch several times to ensure they were finely chopped, but not overly so.

The basil/evo purée, chopped nuts, Reggiano and sauteéd garlic–– all ready to be combined to taste!

In that same nut pan, I sautéed halved buds from two fat cloves of garlic in EVO until fragrant. Most recipes use raw garlic but, of late, I prefer removing their bite and enhancing their sweetness with a bit of heat. Process the cloves with the oil and pour into a bowl.

All that’s left is the Parmesan, and this is where I splurge. You can find loads of cello-wrapped American-made wedges of Parmesan in USA grocery stores everywhere, and they’re less than half the price of true Parmesan. But the flavor is incomparable and doesn’t hold a candle to the real stuff. It makes or breaks a pesto, at least for this girl, so it’s worth it.  Two-plus pounds of stamped (that seal of authenticity) grated Parmigiano Reggiano did the job.

I also like having frozen pesto cubes to add as last-minute seasonings to winter soups and paninis.

Each ingredient has its own bowl and––not wanting one ingredient to overtake another––I mix them all to taste, adding kosher salt, at the end, to taste. Voila–I’ve twelve snack-sized  baggies stuffed with pesto. Better yet, omit the disposable plastics and use Tupperware &/or ice cube trays. I also used a mini cube tray, which makes it easy to add a last minute flavor bomb to cold-weather soups, such as minestrone.

See me doing the happy dance come February, when my book is released and I can thaw a bag of summer goodness to add to a dish of pasta!

Speaking of, the cover and title of the novel will be revealed in October, and the publication date is set for February 5th. You readers will be the first to know everything, and I’ll put you at the top of the list for my advanced reader copy giveaways (beginning in October) for the book.

If you want a bona-fide recipe for pesto, click here.  I wrote the recipe for the newspaper ten years ago, almost to the day. The recipe takes a deeper dive into the world of magnificent pestos!

Happy Labor Day!


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