Of course with all this basil growing in my garden, I have to make pesto. After I have made about 10 containers of pesto for the freezer, I try to think about other ways to use this fantastic herb.
One of the best ways to preserve excess basil is to chop it fine. Place it in a food processor with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Then, simply pour the shredded basil oil into ice-cube trays and freeze. As you need a bit of fresh basil, it will be easy enough to pull out a cube of basil and add it to tomato sauce, stew or salad dressing. Much better than dried.
Pesto alla Genovese
4 cups tightly packed basil leaves (no stems)
1 large peeled garlic clove
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/ 2 to 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
In a blender of food processor, combine the garlic, pine nuts, salt, pepper and ½ cup of the olive oil.
With the machine running, add the leaves a few at a time. Add more olive oil until a smooth paste forms.
Pour the pesto into a storage container and pour a thin layer of olive oil over the surface of the pesto to keep it from darkening.
If using that day, store at room temperature. If using later in the week, refrigerate the pesto and bring it to room temperature before using. Any longer than that store in the freezer.
Stir in the cheese just before serving.
Toss this sauce with your favorite pasta.
Pasta With Basil Pesto
12 oz short dried pasta
Half the of the prepared basil pesto recipe from above
Grated Parmesan cheese and freshly cracked black pepper.
Cook the pasta al dente in boiling, salted water. Reserve a ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and place in a pasta serving bowl. Add the pesto and pasta cooking water. Stir well and top with grated cheese and black pepper before serving.
How To Use Pesto In Your Cooking
Stir a tablespoon of pesto into most vegetable soups just before serving.
Spoon a thin layer of pesto onto toasted bread slices, top with shaved Ricotta Salata or another firm grating cheese, and serve as an appetizer.
Whisk pesto into a risotto.
Beat equal parts of pesto and Ricotta cheese together and spoon into scooped out cherry tomatoes.
Toss grilled vegetables (peppers, zucchini, and eggplants) with a little pesto.
Spread on focaccia bread when making a Panini.
Add pesto to your favorite poultry stuffing.
Don’t forget to add it to your favorite spaghetti sauce recipe.
What Else Can You Do With Extra Basil?
Lemon Basil Garlic Butter
This butter is a great addition to chicken, fish or steak. It is also good on grilled corn on the cob.
Makes 8 tablespoons
1/2 cup salted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Mix together all the ingredients until blended well.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to a week.
Tomato Basil Grilled Cheese Sandwich
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
8 large fresh basil leaves
2 plum tomatoes, sliced thin
4 slices sourdough bread
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
Layer the cheese, basil and tomatoes on two bread slices. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper. Top with remaining bread.
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the sandwiches. Cook until the bottom is toasted, turn the sandwich over with a large spatula and cook until the second slide is toasted. Serve immediately.