If you open my fridge, there is at least a 50% chance you’ll see a container of freshly-made pesto. I can’t get enough of the bright, herbal, nutty condiment and I make a big batch a few times a month. Usually, I make enough to last for several days, although it never seems to last long enough. I thought I’d share my recipe and some ideas for what to do with the sublime green stuff.
First, make the pesto. My version uses basil as the only herb but I have been known to throw in spinach leaves or fresh parsley if I’m low on basil. Instead of super-expensive pine nuts, I use walnuts, which provide a nice meatiness with a touch of bitterness for a fraction of the price of beloved pignolas. But the real secret, which I’ve only just come to realize: Add the extra virgin olive oil after you’ve blitzed the rest of the ingredients in the food processor/blender. When you process the oil along with the other ingredients, it can turn bitter. (Note from 2020: This bitterness was much more common when I was living in Spain and using Spanish olive oil. It doesn’t seem to be an issue with milder olive oils, so adding it early on is probably fine).
Basil Walnut Pesto
6 cups basil leaves (rinsed, and they don’t need to be completely dry. Some stems are okay, too).
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 loose cup walnuts
3/4 cup grated Parmesan or asiago cheese
Juice from half of a lemon (or about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice)
1 teaspoon salt (plus more, to taste)
Dash of red pepper flakes (optional, if you prefer a little kick)
Add walnuts and basil to large food processor bowl (or do this is smaller batches if you don’t have a large processor) and pulse until finely minced. Add cheese, lemon juice, salt, and red pepper flakes, if using, and pulse again. (If the mixture is too dry to process and you need to add some oil, add a little bit of a milder oil, like regular olive oil, sunflower oil, or canola oil. Scrape mixture into bowl, add the extra virgin olive oil, a little at a time, and mix until incorporated. Store in fridge in airtight bowl. Can keep for five days.
Now you have pesto in your fridge and it thus everything you make for the next few days is going to vastly improved upon. Here’s what I usually make with my walnut-basil pesto.
Em in Jerusalem