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Having Fun with Pesto!

 By Lynne Griffin- Vice Chairman, Western Reserve Herb Society

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Today, while I was working in our Western Reserve Herb Society garden,  someone asked me about basil pesto. I think that is a great topic for review this time of the year, when there is a huge amount of Basil around for us to find something to do with.  You just start with a good basil pesto recipe and if you don’t have one you can use mine.


Lynnes Fresh Basil Pesto

2 Cups of fresh Basil

2 cloves of Garlic

½ Cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

¼ Cup of Pine Nuts

½ Cup of Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Put the basil into a Chopper/Blender/ Processor and chop away. Then add the garlic, cheese and nuts.  Last add the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Let it sit a few minutes for the flavors to blend.  Use on your favorite pasta or place into a freezer safe container.  This keeps in the freezer about 6 months.

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Let’s think of this recipe as a template and go outside of the box. Say you don’t have quite 2 cups of basil or even the same variety of basil. Let’s look for something to fill up that 2 cup of basil requirement.  1.  If you are growing more than one variety of basil.  Ask yourself, will it work here?  Just give it the smell and taste test.  If you enjoyed the smell and taste then it will probably do the job you need it to do.  If you didn’t, pass on it this time and leave it in your garden. 2.   There are lots of basils available and most of them can be combined to enhance the flavor of pesto. Consider combining ‘Genovese” with ‘Dolce Fresca’ (Sweet/Fresh), or Lemon Basil with ‘Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil “, or Basil ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ with any basil that you are growing.  By now you get where I’m going with combining different basils to make your pesto a culinary specialty all your own.

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Time to look at the other ingredients and this is important, know that you can always leave out the garlic.  Its flavor is really an important component in pesto but if it causes you or yours a problem, of course, leave it out.  The nuts are the next ingredient in the recipe.  Allergic to nuts?  No problem leave them out as well.  You can still make a delicious pesto.  I f you can eat nuts safely but can’t find pine nuts or you just don’t like them, several different kinds of nuts will work just fine.  I have successfully used walnuts with the lemon basil combination, pecans with purple basils.  Regular sweet basil will work with any nuts you have or choose to use.

The Parmesan cheese is also very important especially if you plan to freeze your pesto.  When you take it out of the freezer you want good flavor to be there.  What can I add to the necessity of using a top quality olive oil that you don’t already know? 

Now that concludes this segment of HAVING FUN WITH PESTO but that’s not all there is regarding making pesto. Pesto with other herbs and interesting combinations of herbs is possible.  Plus there is the fun application of pesto with an almost limitless variety of Pastas. Thats a whole other topic that I will be addressing here very soon! In the meantime, we'd love to know what you add to your pesto! Please feel free to let us know in the comments! 


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