Fresh basil smells of long summer days and is delicious macerated into pesto with toasted pine nuts, garlic and good olive oil. All of the ingredient amounts can be adjusted to suit your taste but here is a rough guide. If you like you can add parmesan cheese for extra richness or a squeeze of fresh lemon for a sour burst
1 large bunch of basil
2 peeled garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 handful of pine nuts
1 handful of grated parmesan cheese
- Place the pine nuts in a frying pan without oil and stir them gently on a medium heat until very lightly browned. Do not leave them unattended because they will burn easily.
- Pick the basil leaves from the stalks and place the leaves into a food processor.
- Add the garlic cloves and lightly toasted pine nuts.
- Add a few twists of cracked pepper and the Parmesan cheese, if using.
- Blend, adding olive oil in a constant slow stream until it resembles a paste and is the consistency of your liking. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice just before serving if you like a fresher flavour. Add salt to taste if you are not using the Parmesan cheese.
Store in a jar in the fridge for a week or two. Squish it down into all the corners of the jar to remove as much air as possible. It stores best with a layer of olive oil in the top of the jar to prevent air getting to the pesto. You can also store it successfully in the freezer. Freeze in small quantities in ice cube trays before transferring to an airtight container if you want smaller portions.
Serve with pasta and an extra lug of good olive oil; as a spread on sandwiches (particularly with fresh tomato); on pizza or stirred through potato salad. Or simply use it as a dip. I find it hard not to eat it by the spoonful when it is this fresh!