Presto, pesto!

If it’s summer, it’s time to make pesto and, like a squirrel storing nuts for the winter, freeze ice-cube size nuggets for the chilly months when the Mediterranean herb does not flourish here.

The Silver Palate cookbook and the revised Joy of Cooking have similar recipes, both wonderful and both loaded with olive oil, cheese and nuts. The pine nut is the nut of choice for pesto, but unless you’re willing to take out a second mortgage to buy them, you can do very well with the more modestly priced walnut.

Jane Brody’s original Good Food Book (1985) uses the same 2 cups of basil leaves and 3 garlic cloves but slashes the amounts of the other ingredients. The result? An even greener taste with less fat.

A food processor is mandatory. For years after my friend and fabulous cook Catherine Chapin Mayhew introduced me to pesto in the first place, I struggled to make it in a blender. This takes approximately 3 hours longer than the average childbirth as each leaf winds itself around the blender blade. In a food processor you have  pesto in seconds.


3 big, fat cloves garlic

1/4 teaspoon salt, optional

1/4 cup best-quality olive oil

2 cups firmly packed washed, dried fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

In food processor combine ingredients and whiz until desired consistency. Makes about 1-1/4 cups. That’s a couple of suppers immediately (store, covered, in refrigerator) or you can freeze pesto in 1/2 or 1-cup containers or by the tablespoon in ice-cube trays. As soon as the pesto cubes freeze, knock them into a zippered freeze bag or other freezer container.

Now you’re ready for the perfect summer supper: Whole-grain pasta, a fresh tomato chopped and seeded, some feta cheese crumbles and pesto to sauce. Uber-yum!


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