Kitchen Basics: Walnut Pesto

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

As basil ends its run, it's time to grab all the leaves you can and make piles and piles of fresh pesto.

Pesto is an incredibly easy and quick sauce to make. You only need fresh basil leaves, nuts (pine nuts are traditional but as you see here, walnuts work great too and are cheaper!), fresh garlic, parmesan cheese and good extra virgin olive oil. A food processor literally whips the pesto up in a matter of seconds, and voila! you have a sauce for pastas, grilled meats and fish, and a killer spread for sandwiches or bruschettas for the whole week. You can also make it larger batches and freeze it, but fresh pesto is always the best.

Walnut Pesto
1 cup shelled walnuts
6 cloves of garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
2 cups fresh basil leaves
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1/3-1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

Place the walnuts, garlic, basil leaves, and a small pinch of salt with pepper to taste in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until chopped fine. Add the cheese and pulse again to combine.

With the processor on, slowly stream in the olive oil through the "feed tube" at the top until you get the desired consistency. Less oil will give you a thicker pesto perfect for spreading while more oil will be perfect for pasta dishes and dipping sauces.

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Place in an air tight container and add a layer of olive oil on top to help preserve color. Serve or refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

For Dip: serve with vegetable crudite.

For Spread: combine some pesto with room temperature cream cheese and mix well to combine, then serve it with crackers or sliced fresh bread.

For Pasta: cook desired pasta according to package directions, then simple toss the pasta with some pesto and more extra virgin olive oil to taste; you can add some leftover cooked chicken or shrimp, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and steamed asparagus for a delicious plate.

For Sandwich: spread some pesto on one side of sliced artisinal bread, then top with roasted vegetables (combination of squash, eggplant, red pepper, zucchini, etc.) and sliced fresh mozzarella cheese, then grill panini style for a classic bistro lunch.

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