Versatility. It’s a good thing. Nobody likes a one-trick pony. I feel that way about food sometimes too. Yes, there are dishes that require exacting precision, where there can be no deviation from the ingredients or their amounts. This Basil Walnut Pesto isn’t one of them.
I’m talking about pesto. To me, it is truly a multi-faceted condiment. I decided to make a batch after a trip to the farmer’s market recently where I bought some beautiful, fragrant, fresh basil. At the market, they sell the whole plant — roots and all.
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that these plants are at least 24 inches long and take up a standard size grocery bag on their own. So, of course, I had to make a pesto.
Why not? It comes together in minutes and can be used to enhance and dress so many savory dishes.
Do you doubt me? Let me explain… of course, you can simply toss pesto into pasta and have a delicious meal. But have you ever used it as a spread on an italian panini sandwich? Or as a topping for grilled fish or chicken? Thinned it out a little with additional olive oil and lemon juice and then swirled into a steaming bowl of minestrone? Try pesto it instead of tomato sauce on a white pizza, or add a tablespoon to your next vinaigrette to add another layer of flavor. Pesto tossed with green beans is an easy, flavorful side dish. I’m telling you pesto sauce is like that scene in Forrest Gump where Bubba is talking about all the ways to cook shrimp. By the way, pesto goes great with shellfish, too! Whatever you intend to do with your pesto, I think this version is a good starting point. Of course, if you want to get crazy, you could substitute arugula or spinach for the basil, you could use traditional pine nuts or other nuts like pecans or cashews.
And here’s a fun tip: When you have copious amounts of basil, go ahead and make copious amounts of pesto — then freeze it in silicone ice cube trays. When the pesto is frozen, pop them out and transfer to a freezer-safe storage container for use whenever you need it. That way you’re never caught empty handed. The finished product is silky and flavorful with the vibrant basil and hint of lemon. Here’s yet another example of how to use your pesto – slathered on grilled bread and topped with ripe tomatoes, mozzarella and a sprinkle of chopped walnuts. Pour a glass of wine and meet me on the patio! Nope, it’s definitely not a one-trick pony!
Basil and Walnut Pesto
- 4 cups basil leaves
- 3 cloves garlic peeled
- 1/2 cup walnuts toasted
- 1/2 cup parmesan-reggiano
- zest and juice of one lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil more as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- To the bowl of a food processor or Vitamix blender add basil, garlic, walnuts, parmesan, lemon zest, juice, and red pepper flakes.
- Pulse a few times to break down the basil.
- In a steady stream add olive oil, pulsing until olive oil is blended into other ingredients and mixture forms a loose paste. If your pesto is too thick, add additional olive oil one tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
- Season with salt and pepper.