Fresh Spicy Basil Pesto

One easy to make, incredibly delicious, and well regarded recipe that is perfect for using all the lovely basil that grow prolifically during this time, is basil pesto.

While prepping the bundle of fragrant basil leaves to make this recipe, my mother walked in the kitchen and affirmed how good it smelled. “There is nothing like the smell of basil”, she said. Oh I agree, and I’m sure most everyone else agrees who has encountered the scent of this fabulous herb.

As far as pesto is concerned, there is nothing like the timeless goodness of a delicious batch made with basil. Depending on the ingredients at hand, you can keep it simple and use the classic ingredients, or you can get creative with ingredients that aren’t classic in a pesto, but make a great one nonetheless.

Traditionally, basil pesto recipes call for pine nuts but any of the other nuts or seeds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds. Basil is, of course, the star green for this pesto recipe but other greens like spinach, arugula, parsley, cilantro, and other greens can be used in combination with basil for added nutritional value.

The tools needed to make this recipe are few – a food processor, a sharp knife and a cutting board. If you do not have a food processor, a mortar and pestle and a little arm work will get the job done.

Fresh Spicy Basil Pesto

This particular recipe is tailor made to suit my taste and preference of the moment. Combining both black pepper and cayenne pepper give this pesto a spicy kick. For another spicy alternative, use one of the varieties of fresh chili peppers, like jalapeño or serrano. I prefer my pesto a bit on the oily side and this is when I indulge in a little extra olive oil, feel free to reduce the amount.

1 cup fresh basil
1 cup fresh spinach
½ cup pine nuts, unroasted
3 large garlic cloves
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper, fresh ground
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Add the basil, spinach, pine nuts and garlic to a food process and pulse a few times to chop and mix the ingredients. [If you are using larger nuts, like walnuts, and they are not already chopped, add them to the food processor first, pulse them a few times to chop before adding the basil, spinach and garic]. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula, if necessary.

Add the remaining ingredients – sea salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is running. Add more sea salt and pepper to taste, if desired.

Makes about 1 cup

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Preserving Fresh Basil For Later Use

Want a taste of summer when it’s not? Try freezing basil pesto or the basil leaves in a little olive oil to preserve and enjoy later.

Here are three options:

Option 1: Make the pesto. Fill ice trays or cupcake pans that have been greased with a little olive oil with the pesto and freeze. Remove the pesto cubes from the tray/cupcake pan and store in a freezer container or bag.

Option 2: Lightly coat basil leave with olive oil, place in a freezer friendly container or bag [make sure to squeeze as much air from the bag as possible], and freeze.

Option 3: Puree basil leaves and olive oil in a food processor, transfer the puree to a freezer container or bag and freeze.

Note: Both options 2 and 3 are great for preserving basil for use other than making pesto.

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