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Everyone needs to be able to make a classic pesto. In fact, if you don't already grow your own basil, you should. It's got to be one of the easiest plants to keep alive (heck, I've managed it all summer) and is an incredibly versatile ingredient. Nothing compares to fresh basil and you'll be saving crazy amounts of money by growing your own. Think of how little basil comes in those packages at the grocery store that are sold for somewhere around $3-$4. You can get ten times that amount of basil for cents by growing it yourself - and you always know exactly where it came from!
Once you've got fresh basil, it's uses are endless. Grow some tomatoes too, pick up some fresh mozzarella and enjoy Caprese salads on the regular. Chiffonade a few leaves to add to pasta or soup. Add to roasted potatoes with a simple vinaigrette for a fresh potato salad. Margherita pizza? Yes please. Basil-lime coolers? Get in my glass.
And then there's pesto. Sure it's obviously great as a pasta sauce, but it's delicious uses extend far beyond this fundamental one. Adult-up your classic toad in the hole with pesto and Sriracha. Use it as a sandwich spread. Add to potatoes or sweet potatoes for a fresh twist on roasted potatoes. Pesto mussels -could there be anything better? We could go on and on but this food network list is a pretty great start.
1 c. grated parmesan
2 c. packed basil
2 cloves garlic
1/3 c. pine nuts
1/2 c. olive oil
squeeze of lemon juice
pinch of salt and pepper
Throw all of your ingredients except the salt and pepper in a food processor. Pulse until well smooth.* Add salt and pepper to taste, pulsing to blend.
*Add olive oil to thin out pesto depending on use. The one pictured here is fairly thick but adding another 1/4 - 1/2 c. of olive oil would yield a smoother consistency.
Update: October 8, 2016
Last night I had a bunch of arugula to use up and was craving a pesto pasta, so decided to make another great twist on the classic.
In a food processor, blend:
3 cloves garlic
2 large handfuls of arugula
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. packed basil
1/2 c. grated parmesan
1/2 c. chopped walnuts.
Drizzle in more olive oil as needed to reach desired consistency. Pour over cooked pasta and add bacon crumbles and fresh chopped tomatoes for an easy and delicious dinner!