Friday, September 9, 2011

The Best(o) Pesto!

As is usual post Hood to Coast, I am feeling a little blue.  There is a definite depression that settles in once the race is over and the high from the experience fades.  So what to do?  EAT!  And what better food to eat than my favorite comfort food, pesto pasta.  Summer means basil and basil means PESTO!  I lovvvvvve pesto.  I rarely order it in restaurants because usually it is prepared with way too much oil for my tastes.   I figured out a recipe that I love though, and lucky you I'm-a-gonna share it with you. 

Here's what you'll need to get started:

The first, and most important, ingredient for pesto is obviously basil.  I prefer to use fresh ingredients whenver possible, so when the basil is growing I make as much of this pesto as I can and freeze it for later.  Lucky me, my parent's have a large garden and let me take as much basil and garlic as I can use (as long as I give them some of the finished product, of course!).  I also use walnuts in my pesto instead of pine nuts (and conveniently my parents have a walnut tree too, so I have tons of them to use).  Either will work, but I like the nutty flavor that walnuts add to pesto.  Here's the recipe:

adapted from Cooking Light's Sicilian Pesto

1/4 cup walnuts
4 garlic cloves
4 cups loosely packed basil leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese*

Here's how you put it all together:

Wash and pat the basil dry.  Chop up the walnuts and toast them in a skillet over medium heat for about 4 minutes - do not walk away from the skillet while you are toasting the walnuts!  They can burn very quickly and then they are ruined.

Put the garlic into a food processor along with the walnuts and mince together.   Then add the remaining ingredients and process until it makes a smooth paste - you might have to stop and scrape the sides a few times.  Done! 

I like the added kick the crushed red pepper gives to it, but if you don't like spicy feel free to omit it.  I also typically add more garlic than is called for as well cuz I'm crazy like that.  For dinner last night, I put the pesto on whole wheat pasta and added cajun spiced chicken to it.  So so so yummy!

Hope you enjoy!

*if you are making this to freeze, omit the parmesan and add it when you are ready to use it.


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