Sunday, August 15, 2010

Inspiration for Pesto

Often, our inspiration comes from familiar sources, cookbooks, magazines.
Sometimes, from the things that need to be consumed fast, or they'll rot.
Growing my own herbs provides the biggest inspiration of all. I tuck my herbs anywhere I can. Here, basil sits at one end of my lemon tree, not on the other, tiny arugula shoots.

Take a snip of fresh thyme, or oregano and rub it in your hands, smell its pungency, its specific oils. The  heady aroma will send you to the kitchen to whip up something delectable.

Today, it will be pesto sauce.
I know you can buy basil in the supermarket, in cellophane, a handful of leaves at a time, so go ahead, plunge in this experiment.

For this recipe, you'll need two big bouquets of basil. One to make pesto for today. The other,  to keep on hand to inspire you to make something else tomorrow.  Here are the simplest instructions for pesto. Don't panic about the amounts of each ingredient. I tend not to measure at all.
After I taste, I end up adding this or that. 

Pesto Sauce:
1. A bunch of basil leaves, about two handfuls. (If you save the stem(s), with just a couple of baby leaves at the top, and put these in water, they will grow roots, and in turn can be planted to give you basil plants!)

2. 1/2 cup of pine nuts, or walnuts
3. 1C of olive oil
4. 1C of parmesan cheese
5. 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
6. one small pinch of salt and pepper, if needed

In a mixer, start with garlic, basil , nuts, and half of olive oil. Pulsate until everything is a smooth paste, add more olive oil, a bit at a time. Begin to add the cheese, a bit at a time. Taste after half the cheese has been mixed in. Add more cheese to make a thick, but still runny sauce. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. The cheese will add salt, so you may not need to add any salt at all.

This sauce will freeze well.  One recipe will dress enough pasta for four people. 
Enjoy on any type of pasta, hot or cold.


  1. Oh, oh ... you chose Pesto which is one of my family's favorite things!! My daughter here in Bend and son in Atlanta grow basil and my chef son in Minneapolis uses it extensively.

  2. Well, I never knew what went into pesto before! thanks for the info!

  3. I just love basil pesto. I didn't grow fresh herbs, this year, but my cousin did and she gives me bags of all different kinds. And she has a lemon tree, too. Thanks for the great recipe!

  4. i love pesto! this looks like a great recipe, i must try it. and i feel the same way about herbs -- sometimes i just pick them in my garden, rub them between my fingers and smell them. sage always brings me back to greece.