Presto, you have pesto

Pesto is one of my family’s favourite dishes. It tastes heavenly and freezes well for future dinners.

Freshly made pesto on pasta is exquisite. The earthy basil combined with the sexy fresh garlic blended into a rich, smooth paste with extra-virgin olive oil (or EVOO, as Rachel Ray says) is one of the best non-sex experiences I know. There I said it.

I’m not going to waste time here explaining that pesto is Italian for paste or tell you that you can make a paste out of anything. I am only going to say start making this recipe early and your kids (and you) will grow to love it.

So, here are the ingredients that we need:

3 packed cups fresh basil leaves (removed from stems and cleaned)
2 large cloves fresh garlic
½ cup walnuts (traditionally pine nuts, but walnuts are healthier)
¾ packed cup fresh chopped parsley
¾ cup fresh grated parmesan
½ cup olive oil
salt to taste

Throw everything in the food processor and voila, sorry, I mean presto – you have pesto.

Now, here are some tips to make it really good pesto:

1. Make sure you use only the basil leaves (no stems) and that it is very clean. Gritty is not a quality you are striving for in your pesto. I plug the sink drain and wash each leaf under the slowly running tap, then drop it into the sink. At the end, you have a sink full of water with the clean basil leaves floating on top and the dirt sitting on the bottom. Scoop off the basil and dry – in a towel or lettuce spinner.

2. Pulse the ingredients in the food processor to on low, then medium speed. Re-arrange contents with a spatula so everything gets combined into a smooth paste.

3. Toss with hot, drained pasta. (I like to drizzle a bit of EVOO on the pasta before dressing it with the pesto.) Serve with freshly grated parmesan and season with salt and pepper. (Don’t under-salt it.)

4. Once made, the pesto will turn a dark colour quickly. So, for the freshest, greenest pesto, prepare all ingredients, then process just before tossing with pasta. Cover with plastic wrap (allowing no air contact) and refrigerate if preparing in advance.

5. Make 3-4 times the amount you need for a large meal and freeze the rest. I spoon a large dollop (enough for a meal) onto plastic wrap and freeze it.

When you’re stuck for a dinner idea or are surprised with dinner guests – presto.

And don’t forget the salt. (Trust me.)

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