Fresh, homemade pesto is such a wonderful and versatile thing! It may have gotten its starts in pasta, but it’s also amazing on grilled steak, lamb, chicken or fish. A little homemade pesto goes a long way in hummus, salad dressing, or in a dip. I like to have homemade pesto on hand, and I’ve found that if you freeze it in an ice cube tray you can pop out pesto-cubes any time you want to spice something up!
Most pesto contains a good deal of cheese, but I’ve found that with a bit of creativity it’s just fine to leave it out. Hard cheeses like Parmesan or Romano add a distinct umami flavor to food (umami is the “savory” flavor that we can taste in addition to sweet, sour, salty and bitter). To make up for the lack of cheese, we just need to add a little umami from a different source! I used a good, thick aged balsamic vinegar, but a balsamic vinegar reduction would work just as well (you can make this by letting a cup of vinegar simmer until it thickens). Just puree fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic and a little of the vinegar with a good quality oil…extra-virgin olive oil and avocado oil are both great.
Once the pesto is smooth (you may need a tiny bit of water to get the right consistency) you can either serve it, or put it in an ice cube tray to freeze. When the garden is going crazy with basil, I make several large batches and freeze it…I pop out the pesto cubes, put them all in an air-tight container, and then use them all year round. It’s amazing how much flavor one cube of pesto can add to a pan of sauteed vegetables!
- Four cups fresh organic basil leaves, washed
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, or avocado oil
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar, or balsamic vinegar reduction
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2-4 tablespoons water
- In a food processor, combine the basil and pine nuts. Blend well.
- Using a rubber spatula, push the mixture down in the food processor and blend again. Add the oil as you continue to puree the pesto.
- Add the garlic cloves and balsamic vinegar and continue to puree.
- Add the salt, and the water a tablespoon at a time until the pesto reaches the desired consistency.
- If you'd like, you can put the pesto into an ice cube tray and freeze it. Pop the pesto cubes out and keep them in the freezer in an airtight container to use later.