The trees in the woods behind my house have sprouted leaves, seemingly overnight, and I can no longer see the houses on the other side of the ravine. We are once again cocooned in our own little green world. Which means, of course, that it's time to eat all the wonderful green things the season has to offer. One of my green foods in the spring and summer is basil pesto. It's wonderful in a pasta salad with fresh mozzarella and ripe tomatoes, or over grilled chicken, or as a dipping sauce for pita.
About 1 1/2 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
2-4 cloves garlic (depending on preference)
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on preference)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
about 1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil
Quick note: I do not use pine nuts in this recipe, but you should certainly add them in if you like them - about a 1/2 cup. If you do add the nuts, you'll need to increase your olive oil a bit if you're going for a thinner pesto. Another option is to just sprinkle the nuts whole over the top of a pasta salad, which looks very pretty.
Wash the basil and remove the stems. Add the basil to the bowl of a food processor, along with the garlic, lemon zest, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Drizzle in a bit of the olive oil, maybe about a 1/4 cup, enough to get things moving. Blitz it and then scrape down the sides, taking note of how thick or thin the pesto looks. Add the cheese, and with the processor running, drizzle in more of the olive oil. If you want a thicker, chunkier pesto, you'll need less oil and you'll need to run the processor for only 10-15 seconds. If you want a thinner pesto, add more oil and process a little longer. Either way, stop frequently to check the status of your pesto, and when it looks like something you want to eat, call it done.
This recipe makes enough pesto to cover a pound of cooked pasta, but if you want to use it as a dipping sauce, you might want to double the recipe unless you've got a number of other dippers on offer.