Nothing compares to the intense flavor of fresh basil. If you plan things well, you can carry that fresh summer flavor through the winter by freezing homemade pesto. Once you try this, you’ll never go back to buying pesto.
My basil plants were started by seed indoors early in the spring and transplanted to the garden. The secret to growing luscious basil is to constantly pick off the seed bolt at the tops of the stems. This will allow the plant to get bush-like instead of going to seed. All season, I hover over my basil plants (8 of them this year) and pluck off the tops. You’ll know they’re ready to harvest when the bottom stems turn brown up to the first shoots of stems.
If you look close in this photo below, you’ll see a little white flower–that’s what you pick off throughout the season (but try not to let it get to the flowering point, you’ll see a bunch of leaves growing tightly together, that’s what you want to pick off)
I cut all of the stems off at the bottom and bring them to my kitchen where the real work begins: picking all the leaves off the stems. With 8 basil plants, it made for a long day picking alone, but it’s totally worth it.
After plucking all the leaves, I rinse them and give them a whirl in my salad spinner.
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup walnuts (you can use pine nuts, they’re more expensive and I can’t tell the difference in taste)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
**1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan or Ramano cheese–add this only if you are serving immediately, if freezing add when serving.
Put everything in your food processor and let it work its magic.
*If your walnuts are whole pieces like mine were, zap those in the food processor before adding the other ingredients.
That’s it. If you’re freezing, put it in a freezer bag or plastic freezer container as shown. If serving, throw the Parmesan or Ramano in with the other ingredients.