There's something about the smell of fresh picked basil. I love inhaling its intoxicating aroma all summer long. One of the simplest and truly satisfying ways to prepare it is in pesto. Traditionally made from basil, pine nuts, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil, Pesto is a versatile sauce that can be paired with pastas, spread on sandwiches or even used as a dip for roasted veggies.
In this version I use walnuts instead of pine nuts because I always have them on hand and they are packed with nutrients and omega-3 oils. Adding a bit of lemon juice gives this pesto a slight citrus note and keeps it from turning brown. I also found adding parsley to the mix helps retain that vibrant green color, as basil oxidizes quickly once broken down.
Notes:This pesto is on the thicker side and not super oily, so if using as a pasta sauce you need to ladle in some of the pasta cooking water to thin the sauce before tossing the pasta in it.
Using young tender basil leaves produces a nicer flavored pesto.
Pesto is one of those things that really doesn't rely on exact measurements, so this is more of a guideline than an exact recipe.
It's easy to add too much oil, so be watchful and add it very slowly, to the point of almost dripping it in.
Makes about 1-1 1/2 cups
1 large bunch of fresh basil leaves or approx. 2 cups
handful of parsley leaves or approx. 1/2 cup
1/2-3/4 cup walnuts
1 small clove of garlic or 1/2 of a large clove
pinch of salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
squeeze of lemon juice or approx. 2 tsp
approx. 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Equipment: Food Processor
Add to the bowl of the food processor in this order walnuts, garlic, basil, parsley, salt, pepper and lemon. Pulse until finely chopped and then scrape down sides of bowl. With motor running slowly drizzle olive oil into bowl until sauce comes together. I stop adding oil as soon as the sauce moves freely (not in a ball). Use right away or store in a mason jar refrigerated with 1/4 inch layer of olive oil over top of the sauce to keep it from oxidizing. Pour off oil when ready to use.