This time of summer brings plenty of fresh basil here in the Northeast. We normally grow a ton of it on our farm either in the soil or in our aquaponics system. This year, however, we forgot to plant any, so I purchased a large bunch at a farm stand this past weekend. Besides drying it for the winter and using it with fresh tomatoes and Parmesan cheese, my other favorite thing to make from basil is pesto.
To begin, you need a nice bunch of fresh basil. This bunch is enough to make a double recipe.
For a single batch that will feed at least 4 adults, you will need the following: 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 cloves garlic or about 2 tsp. minced garlic, 2 tsp. crumbled dry parsley, 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds or pine nuts, 1 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, 2 cups of firmly packed fresh basil, and 1 cup of Parmesan cheese. You will also need a pound of pasta.
First, combine the olive oil, garlic and parsley in a blender. Process until smooth, and let stand for about 15 minutes. Then add the sunflower seeds, salt and pepper and process until blended. Finally, add the basil and Parmesan cheese gradually, and process until smooth. You might need to get a long spoon in there to mash the basil down to the bottom so all the leaves get blended in. It will look like a green gremlin exploded in your blender.
While you are doing all of this, you can cook your pasta al dente. When you drain it, make sure you save 1/2 cup of the liquid that your pasta was cooked in.
You will then combine the pasta and the 1/2 cup of reserved liquid in a bowl and mix well.
The final step is to stir in the pesto sauce.
And this is what you end up with! I sometimes make very large batches of pesto and put it in plastic freezer containers which keep for up to a year in a chest freezer. It might last longer than a year, but I wouldn't know because we eat it before then. It actually looks and tastes like fresh pesto and is such a treat to have in the middle of winter.
If you're fortunate enough to have a 13 year old in the house who has extra coral colored frosting left over from making a cake for the fair, you might even have some pink/coral cupcakes for dessert.
Do any of you have some good basil recipes? I am always on the lookout for more meals using this herb.