This Easy Pesto Recipe is the most versatile thing you can have in your kitchen. A little pesto and you can make a fabulous meal out of whatever happens to be in your refrigerator right now. And it freezes perfectly to last you through the cold months.
The minute the weather gets warm and the threat of freezing has passed I rush to get my basil in the ground. I make a point to grow enough basil in the warm months to supply me with enough pesto to last through the cold ones. We use this easy pesto recipe in more ways than I can count – in pasta, brushed on chicken, brushed on fish, as a fast way to season soup, as a way to pep up grilled steaks, mixed with crab meat, as a condiment for sandwiches, as a dip for fresh bread, and as a base for pizza. (Not to mention all the ways we use just the fresh basil!)
An Easy Pesto Recipe is one of the most versatile things you can have at your disposal when you are short on time and just need to make the most of what is already in your pantry, refrigerator or freezer. There is no cooking involved, all you need is your food processor. And pesto freezes beautifully so there is always something my family will eat in the house no matter how long it has been since I have replenished the rest of the groceries.
Occasionally you might have a batch of pesto turn a dark, almost brown. I have made pesto for years and have only had this happen once. Basil is very tender and oxidizes quickly, which is what causes the change in color. So handle it gently. Generally you want to slice, not “chop” basil to minimize bruising and oxidation, maintaining the beautiful color. (Have you noticed that chefs on television always stack basil leaves and roll them up, slicing across to create long, thin strips – this is called chiffonade – as opposed to chopping it like parsley or thyme.) If your blender or food processor blades are dull, you might find your pesto gets a little dark for this same reason. Fear not, if this happens, it does not impact the taste, which is really what counts.
There are a couple of options to maintaining basil’s bright green color. First, you can blanch the basil before making pesto. I’m not a fan of this because it robs the fresh basil of its pungent, sweet, herby flavor. It is still basil… But boiled basil is not so exciting for me. You can top the pesto with a splash of extra olive oil if you plan to store it in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Or add a drop to each ice cube tray if you opt for freezing your pesto stash in trays. Personally, I add a quarter cup of parsley to the blender with the basil – which I measure as a handful I clip off my parsley plant, very official, I know. It freezes very well and helps maintain the bright green color even after freezing.
Now go plant some basil – planting it yourself will save you an enormous amount of money at checkout. Even if growing from seed is intimidating, you can purchase a established organic basil plant from a nursery for the cost of what you pay at the grocery store for a few leaves. Basil is exceptionally easy to grow. If you don’t have a garden, a pot works just fine as long as it is well-drained. Six basil plants will give you 2 to 3 cups of leaves per week – which at my house means that I can cook with as much pesto as I want, store enough for when it turns cold, and still give some to the neighbors!
Need some ideas for using up all your new pesto?! This Creamy Avocado Pesto Gnocchi with Roasted Tomatoes is DEEEEEElish. Once you make the super easy sauce, you are going to want to pour in on everything! (Hint: add a little water when you blend it to make it thinner and it makes a great salad dressing!)
You can also use pesto as an easy way to season soups with fresh ingredients, like in this Turkey and Root Vegetable Stew. But the easiest and my most favorite way to use Classic Pesto is to just brush it over chicken or fish, like in this Tilapia with Classic Pesto.