Fresh Pesto With Toasted Pine Nuts

Fresh Pesto With Toasted Pine Nuts

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When you have lots of fresh basil, fresh pesto is a must!

I didn’t always feel this way, but I have come to love fresh pesto. The first time I ever made pesto I followed a recipe that called for a lot of garlic. I love garlic, but good Lord, garlic does not love me back! Since then, when it comes to fresh garlic, I have learned to use half of what the recipe calls for. Cook the garlic in some way, there’s no problem. I can only assume cooking it softens the flavor and makes it more tolerable.

We don’t have a garden, but this spring I bought a huge raised planter box to put on our deck to grow herbs in. It’s just not practical for us to have a garden on this mountain. For one, we really don’t have the space needed to grow a large garden. Secondly, there is no soil content whatsoever and the ground is rock hard. And lastly, even if we were to have dirt hauled in to fill raised beds the deer and Lord knows what other critters would devour anything we would try to grow. It’s just easier to support local farmers’ markets and buy things from the grocery store.

raised herb garden

I eyeballed the planter every time we went to the wholesale club last summer but just didn’t want to fork over the $100 for the price tag. However this year I didn’t want to use so many different pots like I usually do. The pots take up a lot of space on the deck and they are so messy. My only regret about buying the planter is that I didn’t buy it last year. 

The herbs have done really well! I planted dill, thyme, mint parsley, and basil. I gave the first harvest away and for the second harvest, I decided to revisit pesto, but first I needed a good recipe.

There are so many different recipes for pesto. All of them use the same basic ingredients, but they are all different in many other ways. Some of the authentic Italian recipes are very strict with how you should handle the basil leaves. One says to wash the basil leaves at least three times. Another recipe will tell you not to wash the leaves at all. 

handful of fresh basil from herb garden

I adore Gabriele Corcos and his wife, Debi Mazar. You may remember them from “Extra Virgin” on the Cooking Channel. Anyway, they made pesto on Facebook Live this spring and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

I decided to try Gabriele’s recipe and adapt it to my taste using only 1 clove of garlic, versus 3 cloves. (If you love garlic and garlic loves you, use as much as your garlic loving heart desires.)

So what do you say? Let’s make fresh pesto!

pile of fresh basil leaves

What Ingredients Are In Fresh Pesto?

There are just a handful of ingredients that go into this pesto. Here’s a rundown of the list:

  • Fresh Basil Leaves – rinse and dry the leaves well, if they haven’t been watered or rained on recently. Make sure they are as dry as possible before making the pesto.
  • Pine Nuts – pine nuts add texture and when they are toasted they provide more nutty flavor to the pesto. However, pine nuts are not cheap, so you can always substitute them with walnuts, pistachios, or even almonds. 
  • Garlic Cloves – as I mentioned before, I only used one clove for this recipe. The original recipe called for two, so you make the decision on how much to add. I do recommend using a Microplane to grate the garlic into the food processor, so there won’t be chunky bits of raw garlic in the pesto.
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil – This is when you would want to use really good olive oil. Break out the good stuff for extra flavor. Olive oil binds everything together and it’s what gives you that creamy velvety smooth texture to the pesto. 
    There are many variables when it comes to consistency, so stream in a little of the olive oil at a time. If it is still too thick when all the olive oil is added, add a tablespoon at a time to make it thinner. Thinner pesto works better with pasta.
  • Parmesan Cheese – freshly grated parmesan cheese is the classic cheese used in pesto. It’s common to find blends of cheeses such as parmesan, romano, asiago, and pecorino in pesto. For this recipe, I used a blend parmesan, romano, and asiago.  However, any cheeses from this same family that is a hard, salty, aged cheese are the only ones that work well. Soft cheeses would make the texture very globy. 
  • Kosher Salt and Fresh Cracked Black Pepper – As always, I recommend that you season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste. Just use caution when adding salt to pesto. You should blend in cheese and give it a taste before pulsing in the salt and pepper.

How To Make Fresh Pesto With Toasted Pine Nuts

Begin by toasting the pine nuts. Place them in a dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until they begin to turn brown; about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove them from the pan immediately or they will start to burn. Pour the pine nuts into a bowl to cool completely before making the pesto. This should take about 10 minutes.

pouring toasted pine nuts into food processor

Meanwhile, In a food processor, combine half the basil leaves, cooled pine nuts, and garlic. Pulse a couple of times. The process until everything is finely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the other half of the basil leaves and the cheeses. Process again until everything is uniform. Scrape down the sides as necessary.

pouring olive oil into drizzle spout of food processor

With the motor running, stream in the extra-virgin olive oil. Blend them until it forms a paste. Scrape down the sides and pulse a few more times. Blend until the olive oil emulsifies into the basil and the pesto is smooth. Use more or less depending on what texture you want (see notes).

Give the pesto a taste, then season with salt and pepper, to taste. Be careful! The cheeses used are salty so use the salt sparingly, tasting between each addition. Give the pesto a quick pulse after adding salt and pepper to blend it into the pesto.

fresh pesto in bowl
pesto inside food processor bowl

Bright Green Pesto

Since I made this pesto, I have watched some YouTube videos and read some recipes that recommend blanching the leaves before making the pesto so that the leaves stay bright green and do not oxidize and turn brown. Mine was a little darker than I had hoped because I don’t think I let the pine nuts cool enough. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

ingredients to make recipe

How To Eat Pesto

Pesto is versatile it can be used in countless ways. Here are just a few ways you can enjoy it:

cube of ice with basil thawing

Storage

Fresh pesto is a great way to use up a bumper crop of basil that you can even enjoy in winter.

Refrigerator: Keep the pesto covered, air-tight, in the fridge until you’re ready to use it; this will prevent it from oxidizing and turning dark. It also helps to store with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil on top. It will keep in the fridge for 1 week or a little longer. 

Freezer: Freeze pesto in a tightly-closed freezer-safe container, with a thin layer of olive oil on top for up to 3-months. For smaller batches, pour the pesto into ice trays and freeze until hard. After the cubes are frozen, transfer the cubes of pesto to a freezer-safe bag. Store up to 6-months. 

pouring salt on basil leaves

Other Ways To Preserve Basil

I wrote about four other ways to preserve basil for the winter months. They are:

  • Blanch and Freeze
  • Tear and Freeze
  • Dry the Leaves
  • Store In Salt

Out of those four ways, I found that storing the leaves in salt to be the best method. You can read about that more [HERE]

drizzling olive oil into bowl of pesto with mountain view

I hope this helps you enjoy fresh basil for the winter months to come. Until then, enjoy fresh pesto!

fresh pesto in a bowl with fresh basil leaves
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Fresh Pesto With Toasted Pine Nuts

When you have lots of fresh basil, fresh pesto is a must! Pesto is versatile it can be used in countless ways. Learn how to make pesto here!
Course Appetizer, Condiment, Sauce, Snack
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword basil, Pesto
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Pine Nut Cooling Time 10 minutes
Total Time 33 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 259kcal

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of fresh basil leaves about 4-ounces I actually weighed the leaves
  • cup pine nuts toasted
  • 1 garlic cloves grated (or more, if desired)
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup parmesan cheese blend freshly grated (any variety of hard salty aged cheese)
  • Kosher Salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Begin by toasting the pine nuts. Place them in a dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until they begin to turn brown; about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove them from the pan immediately or they will start to burn. Pour the pine nuts into a bowl to cool completely before making the pesto. This should take about 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, In a food processor, combine half the basil leaves, cooled pine nuts, and garlic. Pulse a couple of times. The process until everything is finely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the other half of the basil leaves and the cheeses. Process again until everything is uniform. Scrape down the sides as necessary.
  • With the motor running, stream in the extra-virgin olive oil. Blend them until it forms a paste. Scrape down the sides and pulse a few more times. Blend until the olive oil emulsifies into the basil and the pesto is smooth. Use more or less depending on what texture you want (see notes).
  • Give the pesto a taste, then season with salt and pepper, to taste. Be careful! The cheeses used are salty so use the salt sparingly, tasting between each addition. Give the pesto a quick pulse after adding salt and pepper to blend it into the pesto.

Notes

Olive Oil: There are many variables when it comes to consistency, so stream in a little of the olive oil at a time. If it is still too thick when all the olive oil is added, add a tablespoon at a time to make it thinner. Thinner pesto works better with pasta.
Storage: Keep covered, air-tight, in the fridge until you’re ready to use it; this will prevent it from oxidizing and turning dark.

Nutrition

Calories: 259kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 28mg | Potassium: 92mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 844IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 56mg | Iron: 1mg
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