Pesto is one of my favorite uses for lovely basil, which is a good thin since my plants have produced like crazy this year! It is heavenly on a panini (try the Cain & Abel), or tossed with pasta or Basil Pesto Potatoes, and can be tossed with hot pasta, smeared on a pizza crust, or a any number of other ways. However, I really dislike pesto with a sharp garlic flavor that overpowers. To eliminate this possibility, I devised a way to mellow out the garlic by simmering in gently for a few minutes in some olive oil, while also gently toasting the nuts, which are so easy to burn. The result? A more even, mellow garlic flavor throughout the pesto due to the infused garlic oil that resulted from this technique with no bite! I also added some lemon juice, to keep the sauce bright green (not grey), and liven up the flavor a bit. You can freeze pesto for use in the winter, but wait to add the cheese until you are ready to use it (the cheese takes on an odd green cast and can get a bit rubbery if it is frozen in the sauce). Makes about 1 1/2 cups
4 cups fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts (may substitute walnuts)
3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced (see Video)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
In a small saucepan place 1/4 cup of the olive oil and the sliced garlic. Gently warm over very low heat until bubbles start to form around the garlic. Keep heat low, add the pine nuts or walnuts, and let simmer lightly for 5 more minutes. Do not let garlic brown-remove from the heat periodically if need be to keep the heat low. Remove from the heat and add to the remaining olive oil. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
While the mixture cools, place the basil leaves in the bowl of a food processor. (If you don't have a food processor, you can use a blender.)
Add the olive oil, garlic, and nut mixture along with the salt and lemon juice to the basil in the food processor and process until well blended. Add the cheese and process for about 15 seconds, if using immediately. Transfer to a bowl or storage container. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To store in the refrigerator, add a very thin layer of olive oil on the pesto, then press a piece of plastic wrap on top. Pesto will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If storing longer, freeze in an airtight container with plastic wrap protecting the surface of the pesto. Use within a month. If you make pesto for the winter, don't add the cheese until after it is thawed and you are ready to use it. (See note above.)