Preserving the Basil with Pesto

Basil is such a versatile herb in the kitchen. We use it all the time, in sauces and soups, on pizzas, and with vegetables and egg dishes. Basil is a warm weather herb that won’t tolerate any cold or frost, so in October our season for fresh basil is just about over. Basil can be dried or even frozen for later use. But another easy way to have basil in the winter months is to make pesto, and freeze it.

fresh basil for pesto (click on any image to enlarge)

Pesto purists may scoff at the idea of frozen pesto, but for my tastes homemade pesto beats anything you’ll ever buy at the store, even after it’s been frozen. There is much debate as to whether to freeze the pesto before or after adding the cheese, but I’ve tried it both ways and can’t tell much difference. You can always do like I did and try it both ways and see for yourself.

Basil Pesto

There’s also more than one way to freeze the pesto. I usually put some in jars, but I also like to spoon the pesto into a plastic ice cube tray. Once the cubes are frozen, I pop them out and put them in a freezer bag. The cubes are perfect to drop in a pot of soup, or add to vegetables when cooking.

freezing pesto in ice cube tray

This pesto is a great way to capture the flavor and aroma of basil. This recipe will make a pesto that is chunky and light on oil. To make a smoother pesto just add more oil. It can be made with walnuts, pine nuts or even pistachio nuts.

Basil Pesto Print This Recipe Print This Recipe
Adapted from several recipes

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed (about 3 oz.)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup walnuts or pine nuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
dash Salt
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Peccorino Romano cheese

1. Place all ingredients except cheese in food processor. Process to desired consistency, using short bursts.

2. Stir in cheese. Pulse until just combined.

3. Store in airtight container. To help preserve the pesto, cover the top of the pesto with a layer of olive oil.

4. The pesto keeps for a week in the refrigerator, or 6 months in the freezer.

Servings: 20 (serving size 1 tbsp)
Yield: 1-1/4 cup

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 73 calories, 65 calories from fat, 7.4g total fat, 2.2mg cholesterol, 46.4mg sodium, 33.2mg potassium, <1g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, <1g sugar, 1.4g protein, 37.1mg calcium, 1.3g saturated fat.

After making this batch of pesto I had to have a taste. It was great on a slice of our homemade sourdough bread!

pesto on crusty bread


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