I don't think there is an herb that I love using in the kitchen more than basil. It smells amazing and tastes amazing! Besides using basil in almost every tomato dish I make in the summer, I love, love, love to make and freeze pesto to use in the winter months.
I'm going to be honest, my garden has only become a passion of mine in the last year or two. Before that, we always had one, but we grew what we were used to and the garden never really excited me. However, since we started to plant new things and stopped growing things (okra) that we just didn't eat that much of, I've started a love affair with my home-grown food. Herbs being one of those loves.
Previously I've tried herbs in little pots and not had much luck. Last year, was the same. I had some herbs like cilantro and basil in pots, but my poor little plants couldn't keep up with my using these herbs almost daily. But I'm lucky to have a grandma that grows herbs and can't use them all living right down the road from me. Last summer she would send me home with plastic bags FULL of clippings off of her basil plants and I couldn't use all of it before it went bad. Cue the pesto!
I heard about freezing herbs, so I decided to try to freeze pesto for use in the winter months. I experimented with a few recipes in my cookbooks and came up with the recipe below that we love and stays fresh in the freezer all winter long.
My kids and I love to mix a few cubes of the pesto with cream and pour it over pasta with peas at lunch time. Or I'll thaw a few cubes and toss it on potatoes and then roast them in the oven. However, you choose to enjoy this pesto, you'll be reminded of the deliciousness of summer even if there is snow on the ground.
- 2 cups of packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 tsp salt
- a few turns of the pepper mill
- 1/2 to 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- 2. Pour the pine nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and spread out to a single layer.
- 3. Toast the pine nuts for 3-5 minutes. Be VERY careful to watch the pine nuts as they roast. They can quickly burn. You want them to slightly brown, not turn dark brown.
- 4. Add the basil, garlic, pine nuts, salt and pepper to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
- 5. Turn the food processor on to the mix setting and slowly add the olive oil. Only add as much olive as you need until you get a thick, smooth consistency. You don't want runny pesto.
- 6. If you are freezing your pesto, pour into ice cube trays and place in the freezer for a few hours until set. Then remove and place in a labeled freezer container. Use within 4-5 months.
- If I'm using only pesto to dress my pasta, I will add about 2/3 cup of freshly grated Parmesan (for a whole batch). When I mix the pesto with cream or toss potatoes in it, I usually grate the Parmesan directly onto the pasta or potatoes instead.