When I say basic pesto, that is not to take away from how utterly delicious a basic pesto actually can be. What I mean is that it is the most simple form of pesto, a formula for future pesto creations if you will. A base to allow you to swap and sub depending on your mood and what is in your fridge and pantry. There is also nothing wrong with sticking to the basic recipe because the flavors never get old.
That is why we are here today. I want to show you how easy it is to make your own pesto with fresh ingredients. I know it is very tempting to buy store bought pesto, and there is nothing wrong with that. Believe me I have been there and done that in a pinch, but for the most part I always make my own. It is just a few ingredients and the results are mouthwatering. Another perk to making our own is that you control the oil amount that goes into the pesto, which controls the fat content! Yes please!
I make pesto ALOT, partly because it is so easy and partly because it is my husband's favorite. I think I could put pesto on a stick and he might eat it! It is an instant way to dress up any meal and add tons of flavor. I use it on sandwiches, in pastas, on pizzas, and in dips. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with slathering it on some hot crusty bread!
It's fresh, vibrant, and healthy. After making it once you will wonder why you have never made your own before now! Let's get started!
- 1 Cup Fresh Basil
- 2-4 Cloves of Garlic (this depends on your love of garlic...I use 4)
- 1/4 Cup Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese
- 2 Tbsp. of Pine Nuts
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for this you start with a little and add as you go to create the consistency you want, I just eyeball it as I go)
- 1 Tsp. Salt
- 1/2 Tsp. Pepper
In a food processor, add your basil, rough chopped garlic, grated cheese, pine nuts, salt, and pepper. After you put your lid on the processor, pulse a few times and then begin streaming your olive oil in a little at a time until your pesto is a creamy consistency that is right for you. I don't like mine too oily, but this really is personal preference, so you decide what's right for you. Just remember you can always add more.
Can you believe that you are done? That was it! See what I mean? It's a cinch! Just add it to whatever you are cooking and your meal will be complete!
One of my husband's favorite pasta dishes I make with pesto is my shrimp pesto pasta. Sautee your shrimp while your pasta is cooking, and then add in some peas to the pasta for the last minute of cook time. After you drain your pasta (reserving a little of the pasta water) add your pasta and peas to the shrimp along with your pesto, the pasta water, and mix together. Top with some freshly grated parm cheese and you are done. It is a 30 minute dinner including prep time!
Another quick meal that I like to use pesto for is when I make pizzas at home. I either buy frozen pizza dough, or if I'm near a grocery store that makes their own pizza, a lot of times they will let you buy the dough from them. I love to get Whole Food's whole wheat pizza dough, it has really great texture and is the closest to homemade dough that I have found. You can certainly make your own dough, but that definitely takes more time. Anyway, just roll out the crust really thin and spread a layer of the pesto right on the crust. From there top with your favorite cheeses, (I usually just use mozzarella and parmesan) and whatever other toppings you love. My go to is chicken, red onions, sun dried tomatoes or fresh tomatoes, and that's it. Last night I used chicken Italian sausage and it was delicious also! Another time saver tip is to buy a rotisserie chicken and shred it on your pizza instead of cooking your own. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes and you are done...again under 30 minutes!
I could go on an on about other options for pesto, but instead I'm going to quit talking and allow you to test for yourself just how easy and delicious pesto can be.
P.S. Not a basil fan or not a fan of some other ingredient in the basic pesto? Swap ingredients... You can use cilantro, arugula, kale, spinach etc. instead of basil. The same goes for the nuts...swap out the pine nuts for walnuts, almonds, cashews, or whatever you want! Like I said this is the basic recipe, it can definitely be adapted and transformed!