Time to Make the Pesto!

Our basil this year was the best ever! It was so nice to have it available whenever I needed it this summer, but now that the nights are getting cooler I thought it was time to cut it down and make some pesto before it shrivels up and that would be just to sad!

As you can see I had my work cut out for me. The bowl was overflowing and this was my first batch!

I personally don’t like when pesto turns dark after a couple of days, I found that by blanching the basil in boiling water for just 15 seconds and then submerging it into an ice bath will keep it the color a vibrant green much longer.

When I buy store bought pesto’s sometimes I find them way too garlicky or just too oily for my taste, but when you make your own you can add or subtract any of the amounts that you put into it. My advice is keep tasting it as you go along to get the right balance for you.

This year I used toasted walnuts instead of pine nuts, I’m sorry but I just can’t bring myself to pay ten dollars for 4 ounces of pine nuts. I don’t know why they’re so high this year!
Actually the walnuts were a perfect substitution, we loved the flavor it added.

This is just a guideline for Basil Pesto, like I said you can add or subtract any of the ingredients or substitute any kind of toasted nut of you like.

After you pick the best leaves off the vines, blanch for 15 seconds in boiling water then submerge into an ice bath and squeeze the basil of all excess water.
For every 2 cups of basil add 1 garlic clove, 1/4 cup of toasted nuts, 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and olive oil.
In a food processor place nuts first and garlic, then add basil, cheese and stream in as much olive oil as you like. Keep tasting all the way until you get it to your liking.
There’s so many uses for basil pesto but my favorite way is to simply toss it into some warm pasta!
Since I had so much basil, I wanted to try freezing some. On Facebook a few weeks ago I read how Lidia Bastianich does hers, she said, “Pluck the whole leaves and set them in a small paper cup, fill with water until the herb is submerged, then freeze. When frozen solid, pop the block of ice with the embedded herbs out of the paper cup and into a ziplock bag. The herbs, once the ice melts will be fresh and ready to use.”
I filled 3 bags but I’m making more for sure. I hope you will give this a try it was so simple to do and you can pack quite a few leaves into the paper cups as opposed to using ice cube trays.

Thanks Lidia, I can’t wait to pop these into my sunday sauce this winter!
Have a nice week everyone, and Buon Appetito!
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  1. So, I’m looking at my modest container of basil. We did okay, but nothing Basil-zilla you have growing! I hear you on the pine nuts. I ran out of them, from Costco. As soon as I spot those puppies, I’m buying TWO bags! I never thought to blanch the basil before making pesto. Great tip!

  2. I cannot tell you how happy I am that I have found your blog! I love love love italian and the recipes on this blog are fantastic. Pesto would have to be in my top 5 favourite pasta dishes. Thankyou!!

  3. Lofe all of these tips. My basil is done for this year sad to say, but maybe I will still hit the motherload!!

  4. I just found my perfect solution on your site. I don’t have an overflow of basil this year so I don’t think i’ll make pesto but I can definitely freeze it before the cold weather does. I’m going to freeze mine in paper cups like you and Lidia. Thanks for the tip!

  5. My fave.

    I’m lucky enough to have a year-round source of very good basil, and so I make it a lot.

    And don’t sweat the walnuts. Half the time that’s what I use, just not toasted.

  6. Marie – I’ve been freezing my pesto as you do, sometimes blanching in water, sometimes not. Even with the blanching, it turns dark on me and I can’t figure out why. In Italy you can buy it in supermarkets by the spoonful at the deli counters, and it always stays a bright green. I wonder if they put ascorbic acid in it or something else to keep it looking so fresh and appealing. Re: freezing leaves like Lidia, last year I did that and lost it in the freezer mess. I found it again this summer when I didn’t need it any longer. I have to organize a little better.

  7. On Sunday, I made pesto for the year – about sixteen containers worth and then did the ice cube thing. It was sad – harvesting the pesto – nodding an acknowledgement that summer was over but sweet to think of the summer treat this coming winter.

  8. Yes, it IS time to make the pesto. I had such a huge basil crop last year that I still have enough pesto left in my freezer to get me through another winter. So this year I’m experimenting. A friend of mine just plucks the basil and gently packs it into freezer bags, then pushes all the air out so the bag is flat and freezes it. Hers turns out beautifully, so I’m trying it this year!

  9. Good heavens, Marie, you have a basil hedge in your yard! Thanks for the great tip about blanching the leaves and freezing them in little cups. Very clever.
    I couldn’t bring myself to pay $26 for a bag of pinenuts at Costco so will be using walnuts too.

  10. Wow! What an amazing crop of basil! I think it’s one of the most beautiful plants in my garden and I love the idea for freezing it in the paper cups. I will definitely give that one a try! Thanks!

  11. I also freeze my basil in ice cube trays for smaller portions so that I can just take a cube out to use in a sauce, just about the right size and I don’t waste any of it. But when I make pesto, I made it without some without cheese and some with and put it in a glass jar topped with oil. By topping it with oil it doesn’t oxidize.

  12. I also freeze pesto, but I put it in ice cube trays, which are a perfect size for putting in a sauce. I also make it with and without cheese and put them in a glass jar topped with olive oil. The oil protects it from oxidizing.


  13. I made a lot of pesto and froze it before I went away on vacation as I was afraid my basil would bolt to seed while I was gone. By cutting off only the tops of the plants they actually did quite well and when I came home I had a lot of fresh growth of bright green leaves to use, so I may do the same thing next year even if I don’t go away.

  14. I’m so glad you posted Lidia’s tips on freezing the basil. Very clever. I have also heard to freeze the pesto before you add the parmesan. I have tried both ways, and I really don’t think there is much difference.

  15. Pesto is far and above my favorite thing to stock away for winter! Just opening it up makes me feel like it’s summer again!

  16. What gorgeous pesto you created with your basil. I must admit I am jealous, as ours didn’t do so well this year. Also, great tip about freezing the basil. I imagine this would work with other herbs as well? Thanks!

  17. Nothing tastes like summer to me quite like pesto. I really should start harvesting my basil and making more pesto to freeze before the season is out as well.

    I have to use pine nuts in mine though. I’m allergic to walnuts! 🙁

  18. I am afraid to come home from vacation and see the size of my 3 huge basil plants.
    Looks like this is in my future!
    Kisses from Paris!

  19. I am afraid to come back from vacation and see the state of my 3 basil plants.
    Looks like pesto is my future!
    Kisses from Paris!

  20. You basil runneth over. I never heard of blanching and then an ice bath. Is this only for making pesto or is it recommended for keeping the herb whole and fresh too? The freezing tip is also interesting. I remember years ago filling ice cube trays with pesto (w/o cheese) for future use. I add red pepper flakes and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to mine — and, yes, I too long ago gave up on pignolis. I use walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds, whichever I have.

  21. Try using almonds instead of pine nuts, as well! I add a bit of parsley to help my pesto keep it’s bright green color.

  22. ohhh…it’s look so good!
    It’s telling you an italian girl!
    I made it today…spread on toasted bread…mmm…very goood!

    Have a nice day!

  23. Do you ever find – your pesto turning dark when mixed with the hot pasta? Or is it just me…

  24. I do both too. As for the whole pine nut issue, we have been known to (gasp) use almonds as well 😉

  25. Holy Cow, Marie! I can’t believe your basil. Gorgeous. And I like the tips about freezing basil. Very interesting. I’ll have to try.

    As for the pine nuts – I noticed at our local grocery, they quadrupled in price. That is because they switched to real Mediterranean Pine Nuts, which are much more expensive. The ones from China are very cheap and what most stores carry.

  26. I’m jealous of your bounty. What’s your secret? I can’t grow a good batch of basil to save my life.

    I like the tip on freezing the basil. I’m curious how it turns out/tastes when you melt the cube.

  27. Great way of preserving. Thanks for sharing.

  28. What a brilliant idea and how lucky you are to have an abundance of basil. Your families food will be tasting fresh like summer all year round.

  29. What a great way to try to preserve the basil. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to keep my fresh basil after I harvest it so I can keep using it year-round.

  30. what a perfect idea. i’m going to try this method with my cilantro. thanks for the post! 🙂

  31. I can only smile seeing that big patch of basil, Marie. What a glorious herb that is the essence of summer. I am going to try Lidia’s tip for freezing the fresh leaves. And I wish I had a bowl of your pasta right now – deliziosa!

  32. So, so very jealous! The weather out here makes growing basil somewhat difficult. Your plants are so lovely and full!

  33. Went to a farm with the kids on a field trip and got to cut our own basil.
    The pesto turned out beautifully, and I can’t wait to make the pasta dish with it tonight!

  34. Just getting a chance to browse through your all your lovely recipes here. Somebody might have mentioned it already or you know, but to I freeze my fresh pesto on cookie trays in 2-3 tb glops (how do you like that for technical) then pop them into small freezer bags and use as needed through out the winter. I love the idea of freezing the fresh basil in water! I will have to give that a go. Your basil harvest looked amazing!

  35. I’m a lazy cook and will place my pesto in a freezer bag, flatten it a little and freeze it. When I need pesto for my italian dressing, I just break a piece off. Oh so easy!!!

  36. Hey there. This is my first year growing basil, or any herbs for that matter, so I’m so glad I found your site and this great way to freeze it when that time comes. I also can’t wait to try some of your recipes as I recently married into an Italian family and need the recipes.

  37. The easiest way to freeze basil….. Simply stuff them into a zipper Baggie, push the air out, and freeze. When you want to use them, take the frozen leaves, slice and dice and put them into anything. Mix into mayonnaise for a great basil flavor for sandwiches, use in pesto, or salads or use in any way you would use fresh basil. It keeps the green color and wonderful fragrance of when it was fresh. The only thing that doesn’t work, is if you want to use the leaves as a decoration. But when you open a frozen Baggie of basil, you will get that fresh and wonderful aroma of sweet basil!

  38. These are all great tips!! Can’t wait to get out there and pick – pick-pick-!