Questions for the Cook

Two hours of work = pesto for the year

For the past ten plus years my husband and I have taken a weekend afternoon in late summer and made pesto, assembly line style. Depending on how much basil we have (from plants in our yards, pilfered from his mother’s, or if our plants had a bad year, local basil from the grocery store), we make anywhere from 12-20 bags of pesto with one bag saucing one pound of pasta or two pizzas. It has become a tradition, and last Sunday was Pesto Day 2011. Here is how we do it.

My pesto recipe is from the first cookbook I ever had – The Silver Palate by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins (still one of my favorites). While most pestos have pine nuts, this recipe is a little different as it calls for walnuts – delicious and more economical, too.

Silver Palate Pesto


2 cups washed and dried basil leaves

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 cup walnuts

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup grated Romano cheese

1 cup EVOO

salt and pepper

The first thing I do is pull all of the basil leaves off the stalks, and wash and spin them dry in the salad spinner (which I bought about the same time I got The Silver Palate – I need a new one):

Then I measure out how many cups of basil I have to see how how many batches I will get. This year I had ten cups of basil so I multiplied the recipe by five.

Next I peel all the garlic:

…and get out the walnuts.

Because of the size of the food processor, I need to make one batch at a time. Combine the basil, garlic and walnuts in the food processor and pulse until thoroughly combined. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream and mix until thoroughly combined (about 30 seconds). Turn off the motor and add the cheeses, salt and pepper (be careful with the salt as the cheeses add a lot of salt) and pulse briefly until just combined.

Transfer the pesto batch to a large bowl and proceed with the next batch.

After you have completed all the batches and all the pesto is in one bowl, check again for salt and pepper and add if needed. Put approximately 1/2 cup of pesto each into quart size freezer bags, make sure all of the air is out of the bags and seal securely. Freeze for up to six months. When you are ready to use, thaw in the sink or fridge and add 1/4-1/2 cup pasta water, half and half, or warm water to thin it out a bit, if you wish.

10 Responses to “Two hours of work = pesto for the year”

  1. Can’t make tomato sauce anymore – arthritis, but I think I could handle this for sure and look forward to trying it. My husband is Sicilian

  2. Joan Crosby says:

    I will definitely try this because it seems to be safer and more convenient than my storage in jars topped with EVOO !

  3. I make mine basically the same way but put it into ice cube trays and freeze then drop all into a plastic bag. Works great.

  4. carrie says:

    the walnuts is what I use also. Pine nuts are pricy. If i cannot get basil,I actually use parsly and spinish,etc. works out great.
    This year on my apt. window sill I planted a basil plant. Not enough for anything. ,I will add tomy mixture

  5. T. Horton says:

    For individual servings, you can also freeze it in ice cube trays and then store them in a freezer bag.

  6. Tom Doyle says:

    Put it into a printer friendly version. Please!!!!

  7. Karen Ferro says:

    I have been freezing my pesto in ice cube trays. I like the bag idea since they lay flat in the freezer. I buy my basil at the farmers market (very inexpensive) and use pine nuts. I will have to try walnuts with my next batch.

  8. F. says:

    If you want to go a bit greener, freeze the pesto in ice cube trays and transfer to a reusable tupperware. It works great for pureed items such as homemade baby food too.

  9. Angie says:

    Basil has been growing very well this summer and hasn’t been effected by the hot and dry weather, so I have been making batches of pesto all summer and putting it in the freezer. I have been using almonds and actually used spinach for one batch and it was so good. I was surprised that you put the cheese in the pesto when freezing it. I wasn’t sure how the cheese would hold up and keep it’s flavor. Thanks for giving so many details.

  10. Ellen says:

    A printer friendly receipe would be lovely.

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