Sunday, May 30, 2010

Getting Started: Homemade Pesto

Pesto is one of those foods that I love, but have always been a little too timid to make. So, it only felt right to tackle it first.

I must warn you ahead of time, it is not cheap to make because of the high quality, expensive ingredients. I'll list prices by each item in the recipe to give you some perspective. But, before you make up your mind never to make it, I must give a confession. It may be cheaper to buy pre-made pesto at the store (I will eventually try and review pre-made recipes), but the satisfaction and taste of homemade, in my mind, was worth it. Okay, now for the recipe.

Pesto (Makes about 4 cups)

1/4 cup walnuts (We had these on hand, so I do not have a price estimate)
1/4 cup pine nuts (A small 4 oz. jar was $6.97) 
3 Tbsp chopped garlic (9 cloves)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed (About $8 for two bunches)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (A slice of good Parmesan was about $7, so I opted for Parmesan shavings for $2.97)

Place the walnuts, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 30 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. Turn on processor, then slowly pour the olive oil into the feed tube and process until the pesto is finely puréed. Add Parmesan and purée for one minute. Serve immediately or store the pesto in the fridge or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Observations/Suggestions: This pesto was good, but super salty. Next time, I will use a scant tsp of kosher salt, if that. Perhaps even a 1/2 tsp? I'll let you know when I make it again. Also, I heard that you can substitute walnuts for pine nuts, which would be significantly cheaper. I would recommend researching that before you try it. Food processors are a pain to use because of the clean-up, but I must admit, it was super easy to get all the ingredients blended to the right consistency. Which, I may add, I left my pesto with a little texture. For me, I tend to appreciate texture over nothingness. (FYI: The pesto picture is included with the Tomato Pesto Mozzarella post)

Recommended? Yes and No. If you have the time and want to experiment, I say go for it. But, unless you're eating the pesto straight, which I doubt you will, then it's probably more than acceptable to buy pre-made. Unfortunate, I know.

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