Making fresh pesto is an easy way to bring a taste of Italy into your own kitchen. Pesto might seem difficult to make with its dark green color and sharp flavors, but the quintessential version of this sauce only takes a few basic ingredients.
Merry Jane Walsh, co-owner of Vita Sana Olive Oil Company in Rapid City, said traditional pesto is commonly made with fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and a high-quality olive oil.
“It’s simply easy,” said Walsh. “Put all the dry ingredients into a food processor, pulse until blended, slowly add the extra virgin olive oil and pulse until blended.”
Walsh uses a basic food processor; fancy appliances aren’t needed to make pesto.
From there, creative variations can be made depending on personal taste or availability of ingredients.
Walsh suggested switching out basil for another herb or leafy green. Parmesan can be switched for pecorino or asiago cheese. And you can “replace the crazy expensive ... pine nuts with a different favorite nut, like pistachio or walnut,” she added.
“Use more or less of anything to suit your tastes."
And although you can switch out the greens, nuts, and cheese in a pesto sauce, Walsh said the only oil used in pesto is olive oil.
Walsh uses salt and pepper in her basic pesto recipe and also suggested that garlic could be added for a nice flavor profile.
Besides using pesto on pasta, there are many other different uses for this green sauce. Walsh suggested trying it on rice, vegetables, and on boiled or roasted potatoes. Other ideas include using it as a spread on meat or as the pizza sauce on your pizza in lieu of the tomato sauce.
“Make pesto into a dip,” added Walsh. “Use it in soups, salad dressing or spread pesto on a sandwich.”
And there’s no need to waste extra pesto as it freezes well. Walsh recommended pouring pesto into ice cube trays and freezing. When the pesto is frozen, store the pesto cubes in plastic freezer bags in the freezer for up to six months. Pesto can also be frozen in small jars or plastic containers for up to 12 months.
If you add greens, nuts, cheese, and olive oil together, you’re going to get an awesome sauce, Walsh said, adding that she encourages home cooks to change the quantities to match personal taste preferences.
Recipe Submitted by Merry Jane Walsh
4 cups basil (or other herb greens)
1 cup parmesan or other cheese
2/3 cup pine nuts or other nut
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oi
Put all dry ingredients into a food processor, pulse until blended, slowly add extra virgin olive oil and pulse until blended.