I love cooking with fresh herbs, but unfortunately they come with a rather hefty price tag, usually about $4.99 for a small bunch. If I don’t use them all up right away, they will turn bad in a few days and I would feel guilty about not cooking with them sooner. Every summer, I always tell myself that I would grow my own garden (both herbs and vegetables). But then for the past few years that I have been able to start the garden, they always end up dead before the summer is even over. This year, my pepper plant died when I took a week of vacation. Sigh! I have however, discovered the next best alternative for my love for fresh herbs: buying them at farmer markets! They have bunches of freshly picked herbs with a fraction of the cost of what I would pay in regular grocery stores. This pesto was one dish that I have been wanting to make for the longest time using fresh basil, and finally I got around to making them. This recipe is slightly “non-traditional” because it uses walnuts in addition to the pine nuts. I was really impressed with how fresh and complex the flavor was, and how easy this was to put together. It is important that you find the best cheese and olive oil that you can find since it will make a HUGE impact on the flavor. It scores extra points because it is freezer friendly. It is definitely a nice change from the tomato-based sauces for our pasta night.
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts)
3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.
Notes: Air is the enemy of pesto. For freezing, pack it in containers with a film of oil or plastic wrap directly on top with the air pressed out.
To clean basil, remove the leaves, swirl them in a bowl of water, and then spin them very dry in a salad spinner. Store them in a closed plastic bag with a slightly damp paper towel. As long as the leaves are dry they will stay green for several days.
Yield: 4 cups