Perhaps I just don't have a discerning enough palette, but before I had homemade pesto I had no idea it was made mostly from basil! While the stuff from the store is tasty, it is no comparison to homemade. The main ingredient is easy to grow, the pesto itself is fast and simple to make and it stores all winter in your freezer so why not make it yourself?
This delicious basil recipe came from my favorite blog http://www.digginfood.com/. I tweaked it a little bit, adding a bit more garlic and cheese. That's the great thing about pesto, its easy to make it your own. I've also tried it with hazelnuts instead of pine nuts. Use what you have on hand and enjoy experimenting. With this simple of a recipe its hard to go wrong.
What you’ll need:
4 packed cups of fresh Italian basil leaves
4 cloves of garlic
½ cup pine nuts
½ cup Parmesan cheese (heaping)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
1. In a food processor, blend the basil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese into a smooth paste. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then, with the blade running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Process until the olive oil is thoroughly incorporated and the pesto is smooth. Give the pesto a taste and add salt if necessary.
2. The pesto will keep for up to a week if refrigerated in a covered container. Bring it to room temperature and give it a good stir before using it in a recipe. To freeze, fill the individual cells of an ice cube tray with pesto and place in the freezer until solid. Then, wrap each cube of pesto in plastic and place back in the freezer (I just throw them all in a ziplock). To freeze larger portions, line a small cookie sheet or pizza pan with waxed paper. Drop ¼ cup mounds onto the wax paper and freeze until solid. Wrap each mound tightly in plastic and store in the freezer. Drop the frozen cubes of pesto into soups or sauces. When using frozen pesto in a pasta dish, allow the pesto to thaw and then stir in a few teaspoons of pasta water before tossing it with the cooked pasta—this helps distribute the pesto throughout the pasta evenly.
This recipe makes about ten ice cubes worth of pesto. Two ice cubes coat about two servings worth of pasta.
You can get at least 2 harvests off each basil plant. Just make sure you leave about 1/4 of the plant each time you harvest it.