Growing Basil

Summer’s Bounty Garden Pesto

Pesto is the perfect complement to pasta, chicken, and shrimp at any time of year,  but especially in the summer when fresh herbs like basil and parsley are in abundance. Herbs are actually pretty easy to grow and maintain, and this is coming from the biggest brown thumb on the planet! I mean, seriously, look at those AMAZING Thai basil plants above!  Just the smell of these aromatic greens livens up my senses and awakens my taste buds to the new season.

Start with 3 cups of fresh herbs.  Purists will stick to just large Genovese basil leaves, which is fine.  I add a handful of fresh parsley – if I’m feeling extra bold I throw in a few mint leaves, too – giving my sauce an extra layer of vibrancy and freshness.

Classic basil pesto recipes usually include pine nuts and Parmesan cheese; I stray from the traditional by using pistachios and Pecorino-Romano cheese instead.  These ingredients lend a salty bite without having to add too much salt.  A few smashed garlic cloves, some lemon juice,  good quality olive oil, and a few pulses in a food processor round out this simple sauce. 

Ingredients 

  • 7-8 cups, just picked basil (or a combination of basil, parsley, and mint)
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios (For a slightly crunchy, salty bite!)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • 3/4 – 1 cup good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup ice water*
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add basil, garlic cloves, pistachios, lemon juice, grated cheese, salt and pepper.  
  2. Turn the processor on and slowly add the olive oil through the feeding tube.  Process until the mixture is incorporated but still has some texture.  
  3.  Stop the processor to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Replace lid, start the machine, and slowly add the ice water until the mixture starts to come together. (*The ice water brings the sauce together without too much oil and also helps maintain the basil’s freshness and prevent wilting.)
  4. Check the consistency.  You may need to add a little more water or olive oil.   You can even add more cheese, lemon juice, salt or pepper to taste.  
  5. Serve with crusty bread, pitas, or crudites as an appetizer, or over shrimp, chicken, and of course, pasta!
  6. When serving with pasta, reserve about 1 cup of the cooked pasta water to toss with the pesto.  Combine the water with the pesto in small increments to create a creamy sauce; the starchy pasta water helps the pesto sauce “stick” to the pasta.  

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