Making basil pesto from scratch is easy and takes no more than 10 minutes. There is nothing quite like the taste of fresh basil pesto, especially when you grow the basil yourself!
You will only need five ingredients to make this pesto.
The recipe calls for eight ounces of basil and spinach so you can have some options. Options are good, especially if you’re buying at the grocery store where you can only find those small plastic packages of basil.
If you have a little bit of basil, add enough spinach to make 8 ounces or so. If you have all basil, use all basil. Use any combination of the two.
I had just harvested basil from the Aerogarden so I had a full colander (shown here) of basil without having to add any spinach.
This is a great way to quickly use up the baby spinach leaves you have in your refrigerator before you have to throw them out. Don’t let them go bad! Do this instead.
I really prefer baby spinach, though. I’m not overly fond of toddler spinach.
Growing your own basil
Here is the magnificent basil-making Aerogarden. Because I *love* basil so much, this will be going year-round if I can.
The Aerogarden is a water based system so there is no messy soil and it has its own grow light which means we can grow anywhere, anytime.
It only takes four weeks to go from placing the seeds to a harvesting of basil. Check out all the things you can grow in your own Aerogarden.
We harvest the basil before it flowers. It can get bitter once it flowers.
I cut all the leaves from the tough stems before processing. You don’t want the stem in your pesto. It’s not going to break down as quickly as the leaves and I wasn’t ready for all that roughage. There is such a thing as too much fiber! I draw the line at stems.
As you can see, the pesto is a nice bright green, unlike the darker color when you buy it ready made in a jar. That’s the difference between fresh, raw pesto and the pesto that is cooked for preservation in the jar.
Such a beautiful color and it adds such a pleasant touch to any dish when the color is so bright.
I literally ate several spoons of this by itself before reluctantly putting it in the jar and putting it in the refrigerator. I plan on using half of it with pasta and diced chicken. I’ll use the other half as the sauce on a pizza. Yum!
What are pine nuts?
Pine nuts are the actual seeds harvested from pinecones. Can you believe it? It’s not just a clever marketing name. They actual come from pinecones.
Pine nuts are also called pignoli. As you might guess, it’s difficult to harvest and process them so they’re one of the most expensive nuts on the market.
What can I substitute for pine nuts?
There have been many times that we’ve been unable to find pine nuts at our local store. In fact, during the current medical crisis, they are about as impossible to find as bread flour!
If you are unable to find them, you can use raw unsalted walnuts. It will take a little longer to process them to a fine grind.
Frequently asked questions
Spread it on a nice crusty piece of bread and eat it right away. Use it as a sauce for pizza, instead of a tomato-based sauce. Serve it with grilled fish, beef steak or chicken.
Try to eat the pesto within 5 days. It will stay good enough to eat in an airtight container about 4-5 days.
You can store pesto in the freezer for about six months. The cheese may break down a bit. The freezer changes the texture of cheese. You may want to consider making the pesto for the freezer then adding the shredded cheese once you’re ready to serve.
Can you can pesto?
I’m sure there are ways to can pesto. There must be ways since it’s available commercially. I’ve never seen instructions for it, though, and raw pesto is so much better anyway! If you want to preserve it, I would use the freezer instead.
Can you make vegan pesto?
Yes, you can! Although Parmesan cheese is a significant ingredient, you can make a substitute using raw cashews for vegan pesto.
Basil and Spinach Pesto Recipe
- Food processor
- 1/2 cup Pine nuts
- 8 ounces Basil, fresh, washed and pat dry
- 1/2 cup Olive Oil, extra virgin
- 1 cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded or grated
- 1/2 teaspoon Pepper
- Place the chopping blade in the food processor and process the pine nuts until finely chopped.
- Add enough basil and spinach leaves to fill the processor bowl and process until finely chopped. Continue adding more leaves to bowl to process further, until all leaves are in the bowl and processed.
- Remove the pusher from the sleeve at the top of the processor and while the blade is still processing, slowly pour in the olive oil.
- Add Parmesan cheese and pepper and pulse lightly until well mixed.
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