Ever since returning from Italy, Ilana and I have fallen in love with Pesto! Pesto has many wonderful heath benefits. Basil, the main ingredient, contains flavonoids that protect cells from radiation and oxidative damage. It also contains potent volatile oils that are anti-bacterial and effective at warding off unwanted bacteria, as well as containing anti-inflammatory properties. Basil is also a good source of iron, calcium and vitamin A.
But to avoid the unhealthy elements of bought food, preservatives and such, it’s much better to make your own. It’s also lots of fun! Pesto is fantastic to have in your fridge to spread on some crackers for a quick snack, make a toast sandwich, or add to your soups and sauces. It makes everything taste better and look classy!
1 cup Basil, finely chopped
1 Cup Olive Oil
3 cloves of Garlic
1/8 cup Pine nuts
2 Sun-dried Tomatoes
Salt & Pepper to taste
Step 1: Acquiring the basil.
I buy my basil in the local market. We have friends who had a basil patch in their backyard and harvested it to make their own batch of pesto.
The first time I made pesto I only bought a little bit; now buying it is part of the experience. I go up to the herb stall and mention that I want some basil. The merchant brings out a big bag filled with bundles of basil and takes one out. I then proceed to tell him that I’d like the whole bag, and a haggling conversation over the price then ensues.
Step 2: Preparing the Basil.
Unless you are buying organic herbs there are probably nasty chemicals on the leaves, but even if you are buying organic, it’s a good idea to wash the leaves. The basil stems are quite edible but tend to be bitter, so I like to remove the leaves from the stems before I wash them; this can take a while. But a good lettuce spinner is useful for removing the water after the leaves are washed.
Step 3: The Chopping.
I use an electric food processor; but, if you want to go old school a good wooden chopping bowl and chopping knife will do. It’s important to lubricate the chopping process with the oil. Once the basil is chopped finely add the rest of the ingredients and blend until well mixed. Transfer into a container and leave it in the fridge overnight. It might be a tad bitter right out of the blender but be patient, it will be fine in the morning.
Step 4: Enjoy!
I like my pesto toasted between two slices of bread with tomato and mozzarella. In fact, every dish that you use tomatoes for are great with pesto, from meat sauces to soups. If you want a quick meal mix some pesto with pasta and you’ll dine like a king! The best part is that you made it yourself!
One last point. Because there are no preservatives, make sure to mix the pesto from time to time in its container to make sure that it doesn’t become a science project.