Back when I began cooking (I was 13) pesto was unheard of to the everyday cook. At the time, I was learning everything I could about food, so most of my time was spent watching cooking shows, reading cookbooks, and “googling” recipes. Needless to say pesto really intrigued me, as it seemed to be popping up more and more in my everyday research. Long story short – I was determined to make pesto because I couldn’t get my hands on it anywhere and I really wanted to try it!
Attempt number one was a huge fail because I didn’t have a food processor back then, but young Keri thought, “Oh I can just make it by hand”. Well, no I actually couldn’t do that because there was no way for me to combine it into the paste that it was supposed to be. I ended up with roughly chopped basil and walnuts (couldn’t get pine nuts back then!) that resembled nothing close to the pesto I was trying to make.
My first pesto attempt was a few months before Christmas, so what did I ask for that year? Yep, a food processor. I’m probably the only teenager in the world that asked for a food processor and was completely overjoyed when I opened it Christmas morning. Of course the first time I used my new appliance was to make pesto! I ended up loving it and a new obsession was born.
Before trying pesto, I had never even had fresh basil and you pretty much have to love the flavor of basil to love pesto. It is, after all, the main ingredient. Needless to say, basil became my favorite herb and still is to this day. I even named my cat Basil – that’s how much I love it. Below you’ll see a picture of my 10 year old girl – she’s my blogging buddy.
These days everyone knows what pesto is – you can find it prepared in a jar, just about every restaurant menu has something that includes it. However, I still like making my own – it’s super easy (as long as you have a food processor), you can freeze it, and it’s so versatile!
Pesto recipes all include the same things – basil, nuts, garlic, olive oil, and cheese. You’ll find tons of recipes out there – all the same ingredients, but different ratios. I find a lot of them include too much oil, which makes it too liquidy for me. Classic pesto should have more of paste consistency, to make it a pasta sauce you just add some pasta water! Below the recipe you’ll find my make-ahead instructions as well as the method for the pasta below.
If you love basil, garlic, and cheese you’ll love pesto – it’s a bold sauce that adds so much flare to just about anything. It’s great to have some already made in your freezer – you can pull it out (it thaws very quickly) and have a meal on the table in no time! Perfect for make ahead Monday!
- 1 Large Bunch Fresh Basil, about 3 cups
- 3 Garlic Cloves, peeled
- 1/3 Cup Pine Nuts
- ½ Teaspoon Salt
- ½ Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- ½ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ½ Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
- In the bowl of a food processor combine the basil, garlic, pine nuts, salt, and pepper. Pulse the machine a few times to finely chop all of the ingredients. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil through the feed tube and process until the pesto is nicely mixed. Remove from the food processor into a bowl and stir in the grated cheese.
- You can refrigerate your prepared pesto for up to 3 days in an air-tight container. When storing, make sure to drizzle the top of the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil - this helps to preserve the basil and prolong oxidation.
- You can freeze prepared pesto for up to 6 months. For this method you'll want to prepare the pesto and omit the cheese. Pour the pesto in air-tight containers and drizzle with olive oil. When you're ready to use the pesto, thaw it at room temperature and then stir in the cheese.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt and add penne. Cook until al dente and drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. In a large bowl, toss the penne with the pesto until all of the pasta is well coated, adding pasta water as needed to create a sauce consistency. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and more grated cheese.