Left-Brain / Right-Brain Cookery

A double-take in the kitchen

Summer’s Best Herb

Basil pesto

Green Basil Pesto

Joanna and Marilyn like to “freeze summer” in the form of basil pesto. In late summer our plants are full of large bright green leaves, ready for harvesting. Here’s a recipe from each of us, Marilyn’s is more a food science version, and Joanna’s a true classic.
Below is a picture of containers showing how we like to freeze it for the cold months ahead – in small portions. When frozen, portions can be turned out into a heavy freezer bag and returned to the freezer.

LEFT BRAIN: Perfectly Green Basil Pesto

This experienced cook learned a new trick from Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Briefly blanch fresh basil before making it into pesto so its bright green colour is not lost, even after a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.
I especially like pesto tossed with cheese tortellini as well as for the sauce on cheese pizza with mushrooms and sweet onions. Rub it on chicken skewers before being barbecued or put a light slathering of pesto on the toasted English muffin when serving eggs Florentine for breakfast. When serving a pesto-bedecked food, garnish with a light scattering of toasted pine nuts or sliced almonds.

Makes a generous 1 1/4 cups

4 cups (90g) lightly-packed fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup (175 mL) olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2-3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup (45g) coarsely-grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (35g) pine nuts or sliced blanched almonds, toasted

  1. Fill a large mixing bowl with cold tap water; set aside. Fill a large saucepan half-full with water. Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat.
  2. Add basil leaves all at once to boiling water. Stirring constantly, count to 20, during which the leaves all wilt. Quickly lift out leaves with a slotted spoon directly into the cold water. Then gather leaves with your hands and firmly squeeze into a somewhat solid, dry ball.
  3. Add basil ball, olive oil, garlic, 1/2-tsp salt and Parmesan to a blender. Whirl until almost smooth. Taste and add additional 1/4-tsp salt if you prefer. Add pine nuts and pulse only 5 to 6 times to break them up, but not purée.
  4. Turn into a glass canning jar, cover and refrigerate for up to a couple of weeks or freeze for up to a year.
Pesto Form

Pesto Form


Few things quickly put together can make such a satisfying bowl of pasta. This recipe was the family standard instead of the famous boxed macaroni and “cheese”. I now leave out the cheese so my vegan pals can eat the same as the family. The same could be done for the nut allergy people in your life.
Pesto is great served right away but if frozen, you can grate what you want from the frozen state, thus keeping the pesto from losing the lovely green colour.

Makes a generous 1 1/4 cups

2-4 large cloves garlic
3 cups (68 g) packed basil leaves, adding no flowers or stems
2/3 cup (93 g) nuts such as pine nuts, almonds (your choice)
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup (45g) freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup (125 mL) olive oil

  1. In the food processor fitted with the cutter blade, pulse the garlic a few times to start.
  2. Place the basil in and push down with care.
  3. Put the nuts on top of the basil, add the seasonings and the Parmesan.
  4. Drizzle the olive oil over the top and puree.
  5. Place the pesto into a container and cover it with a small layer of olive oil. Refrigerate.

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