Pesto is an wonderfully useful staple to have on hand; it makes a great spread or dip (a baguette roll from La Voie Francaise with a schmear of homemade pesto is my favourite snack), an easy potato salad (boil some new potatoes, cube and toss with some pesto and a squeeze of Kewpie mayonnaise) or the traditional serving style tossed through al dente pasta (pasta alla genovese).
In spring, I purchase a bundle of Awapuni Nursery’s basil seedlings. These are readily available from Pak‘n Save supermarkets and Bunnings stores. Awapuni Nursery seedlings are remarkably hardy as they are grown outdoors in open ground, and pulled to order. Plus, I do love that they are individually rooted and that they come wrapped in newspaper. I plant these in a small, half-sun area in my tiny kitchen garden, and within weeks, the basil is ready to pick.
By summertime, the basil plants are lush and it’s time to make pesto. Pesto is really just a mixture of five ingredients, which you add to taste. Use parmagiano-reggiano cheese and pine nuts to make the best tasting pesto. Pesto freezes well, and your basil plants should give you enough leaves to harvest to make several batches over the warm months.
Ingredients (to make ~300g):
160g (around 3 packed cups) basil leaves, rinsed
50g (two large handfuls) parmagiano-reggiano cheese
60g (two large handfuls) pine nuts
3 cloves garlic, smashed
salt to taste (around 2 good pinches seem to work for me)
I gently dry the rinsed basil leaves between clean kitchen towels. If you have a salad spinner, that works just as well.
Grate your cheese, and toast your pine nuts if you prefer (I’m too lazy to do this). Pack all your dry ingredients in a food processor, and give it a few pulses to get things going. Then while the processor is on, pour in the olive oil in a small stream until the pesto starts to come together.
Taste, and if you prefer, add more parmagiano-reggiano or more oil. It’s really up to you. Transfer to small containers, and store in the fridge if you’re using within the week, or in the freezer.