Monday, October 25, 2010

Homemade Basil Pesto

I have always loved pesto and recently discovered that it is ridiculously easy to make at home. The ingredients are simple and can be mostly be found locally. Pesto sauce requires the following ingredients: fresh basil, grated parmesaan cheese, olive oil, pine nuts (or walnuts) and fresh garlic.
In anticipation of making pesto, I purchased two large bunches of basil from the farmers' market yesterday. When I mentioned my plans for the day to a good friend she asked if I made my pesto with Parmesaan cheese. I nodded. "Then you'd better come downstairs with me," she said with a smile. I followed my friend to the basement where she and her husband kept a second fridge for storage. From somewhere inside she produced an enormous piece of cheese that I knew had come directly from Italy. Her husband's side of the family was entirely Italian and returned to their home country quite often. Apparently, you can bring up to 40 pounds of cheese back in your suitcase. I gratiously accepted her generous offer and watched as she sliced a large piece off the wedge and stuffed it into a bag.
Once I was back home I was excited to begin. I hauled out the bigger of my two food processors and all of the ingredients. The garlic I'd bought from Uphill Farm on the Wellington County Rural Romp would be perfect for this pesto. The only non-local ingredient (aside from the cheese) was the olive oil, but since there is no such thing as local olive oil, I don't worry about that. Finally, I got out the nuts I had purchased. I used a combination of pine nuts and walnuts, since pine nuts are ridiculously expensive. Local walnuts are available from Grimo Nut Nursery on Niagara-on-the-Lake. I have never been to the nursery itself (but I'm hoping to go there in the next couple of weeks), but you can order a variety of nuts through the mail.
Pesto keeps fresh for up to a week in the fridge, but who wants to eat all that delicious pesto in a rush? I decided that rather than preserve the pesto in jars and then be forced to eat it quickly, I would freeze it in ice cube trays and pull out a few whenever I wanted to. Here's the recipe I used for my pesto. I tried it last night and it was a hit!

Homemade Pesto
2 cups of fresh basil, packed
1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesaan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbsp pine nuts (or walnuts)
3 cloves garlic, finely minced

Chop basil leaves in a food processor. Add about 1/3 the nuts and garlic and blend again. Add about 1/3 of the Parmesaan cheese. Slowly blend while adding about 1/3 of the olive oil. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the food processor so everything gets mixed in well. The pesto will become a thick, smooth paste. Serve with pasta, oven-roasted cherry tomatoes, and crusty bread.

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