Classic Summer Pesto

Basil is on. On and in everything these days. Eggs, toasts, salads, pork, fish, chicken, dips. It is also THE base for classic pesto…like that’s any news. But this is a reminder to make it cause it’s so good and easy. Grown best under cover in the San Juan Islands, with a little protection from the wind and chill, basil is making itself known here on Orcas Island. Once again, generous friends sharing their riches have opened their garden gates….

You want to pick the fresh tops to tell the plant it’s NOT time to go to seed, reproduce and make new baby basils… not that that can happen here as it’s just too cold for self sowing. I will find sometimes, a couple tomato seedlings whose seeds not only survived a winter but went on to germinate and grow leaves, usually in the greenhouse and usually mid summer when it’s actually too late for the little guys to grow big and produce. But I’m here to tell you about the BASIL classic that never gets old…. well at least not till you’ve made enough pesto to plaster a wall and still enough left over to freeze in ice cube trays for the winter.

This is classic basil pesto 101. Totally easy. Totally fresh. Totally yummy…And SIMPLE.

I pick the leaves off  4 big bunches if you were to buy it, to end up with about 6  cups fresh basil. I pretty much pack my cuisinart. Add a 1 cup olive oil.

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1/2 cup (or small 3 oz) bag of pine nuts.

1/8 cup lemon juice and 1 clove of garlic. I like the garlic to just say a little hello not safeguard me from vampires in a 25 mile range …matter of personal preference.

Throw a 1/2 tsp of salt in too. Nothing worse than an unsalted pesto…again my opinion.

Now puree till completely smooth… that’s it. Yields a good 2 cups.

  • 6 cups packed basil in the cuisinart
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • PS – You can refine your own preferences for garlic,nuts,cheese…. but this is a good base.

To save pesto, put it neatly in a container and wipe the sides down. Cover lightly with olive oil.

It’s lovely to coat your salmon or of course toss in your favorite pasta. But one of my favorite ways to snack is to spread pesto on a wasa rye crisp, with avocado and balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sea salt. My neighbor Hannah introduced that to me about ummm… 18 years ago. The sweetest thing is every single time, I mean EVERY single time I eat it. I think of her. In theory, I’m sure I should have started this post with that fact to draw you, the reader, in. But frankly, I like to save the nugget for the end.

One last thing. As truly wonderful the classic pesto is, if you want to get a little freaky try this cashew chipolte pesto from MadHaus Frau. She’s got a world of creative and amazement going on over there.

Rock on Garth,

Ok, one very very last bit…. Another pleasure presented in abundance in some summers… CRAB- either bought from the store or shellfish farm down the road OR gifted from those with traps who are just sick of all the crab meat and drop it at your door step in the middle of the night like a basket of zucchini. Not really. Crab is given and received with great gratitude by both parties.

I mixed a little tarter sauce, horseradish and pesto for a dip with cold crab… delicious.

42 responses

  1. I’ve been meaning to make my own pesto, because I have a slight garlic intolerance. I don’t get an allergic reaction but it’s not nice. I find any delicious sauces in a jar usually contain garlic, so much as I would have loved to put loads of garlic in, I no longer can. I love how simple this is, never tried it before. But just looking at the beautiful intense green makes me want to make some NOW! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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  2. Pesto … on oven baked fresh salmon – wonderful .. and I can just spread pesto on a good bread. Nice to hear something from you. Love the combination you done for the crab. Love crab too.

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  3. Pesto is great on so many things including just eaten from the spoon when I’m checking for seasoning. I’m going to try it on salmon next. Oh, cold crab and your dip…how wonderful.

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    • The dip was a make shift happening when we had cooked crab in the fridge and I didn’t want to heat it up AND I didn’t need to eat another cup of warm butter.
      I do love pesto too and we end up eating a lot of it this time of year. Do you have much basil in your garden?

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  4. To my mind, there’s very little better about summer than freshly made pesto with homegrown basil! Beautiful and one of the most versatile sauces I know! Yours is simply perfect.

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    • Thank you Spree… we sure love it- at least for now. We do get a little pestoed out by the end of summer. I use to freeze a ton of it but we never used it as much as I would have thought. I do like the idea of trying some new pesto recipes with different nuts and flavors like the one from MadHaus Frau.

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  5. Basil is a real summer treat, fresh off the plant and used straight away. I’ve never tried pesto with lemon juice, so I will have to remember that.
    And how wonderful to be able to gorge yourself on crab – well I know I would gorge myself!

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  6. Yum! I’ve been wondering what to do with all the basil from the CSA I just joined. I can pick as much as I want practically. Any other ideas of what to put pesto on? I will try your recipe ASAP!

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    • Yay! ummm everything. You can always mix it into things for dips, sauces, spreads. It’s great as a sandwich spread. Mixed into cucumber, tomato salad. I made an omelette this morning with feta and pesto- see you soon and we’ll talk basil.

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  7. Great post, awesome recipe and entertaining writer. Wendy, can this be made without the cheese? I’ve been told by a few restaurants, “our pesto does not have parmesan in it.” Can that be true? Have I been hoodwinked?

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    • I think it is possible. I’m doing a little poking around on that one. There are plenty of vegan versions and some interesting biochemical components to the cheese that apparently tap into our ‘5th’ palate sense- one that is also placated by the likes of MSG… So personally I don’t think it will taste quite the same but can be done- you could possibly replace it with a little sour cream to add a little smoothness?Maybe? Just an idea.

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  8. Lol! I love the classy post followed by a Wayne’s World quote. It’s good to have layers. =D

    I am so addicted to pesto. I’ve been putting it on everything this summer from pastas to meat to veggies. My new favorite is on a plain turkey sandwich. It’s been my go-to picnic lunch all summer.

    Jealous. of. the. crab. We don’t get that here in Midwest America. =(

    ~Danié

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  9. Beautiful pesto! I have only made pesto once and I now I want to try it again. I am curious to try your recipe with that splash of lemon juice! It looks perfect! And the crab…. mmmmm I love crab!

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    • I’m always surprised when pesto recipes don’t call for lemon. It really rounds out the flavor and makes it pop…. like acid does.
      Pesto isn’t everybody’s fav but if you like basil, I think it’s a good summer routine.

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