Post-Labor Day September means different things to different people, but for us it’s warm days of abundant sunshine, cool evenings, and a last few dips in the mountain spring-fed pool. And it’s also time to harvest basil and make pesto.
We’ve been using the recipe below for years, the major difference between it and traditional Italian pestos being the addition of broccoli, which adds a nutritious and tasty but subtle element while cutting some of the bitterness of the basil. (Meat eaters may want to go Tuscan and add a bit of prosciutto.)
Two caveats: Pine nuts not harvested and processed in China (which exports too many contaminated foodstuffs for our taste), are outrageously expensive, but there really are no substitutes. And making single-serving batches of pesto is labor intensive, so our recipe is for a larger quantity. This means shopping for basil at a farmer’s market or co-op farm if you don’t grow it in quantity yourself. Pesto freezes beautifully, so it also means having a deliciously green entree in the dead of winter.
3 Full-leafed basil plants = 10 cups of slightly compressed basil leaves
with stems and any flower heads removed.
1lb Broccoli with stalks trimmed and steamed, then chopped into smallish pieces
3.5oz Pine nuts
1 medium-sized head of garlic, or about 16 cloves
1 cup-plus Olive oil
2.5oz-plus Parmigiano-reggiano or Italian shredded cheese of your choice
Serve with farfalle or a paste of your choice
Depending on the size of your food processor, make pesto in one or two batches by putting basil, chopped broccoli, pine nuts, garlic cloves, olive oil and cheese into the processor and pulsing until ingredients are thoroughly mixed but not pureed. Taste and add a bit more oil and cheese, if needed or desired.
Makes 4 cups of finished pesto, or one cup per sandwich or freezer bag. One cup is perfect for a pound of pasta. At serving, drain steamed pasta, put back in steaming pot and thoroughly stir in pesto. Sprinkle servings with additional cheese, if desired.