It's not just basil and garlic, but that is the most important part of pesto - if you don't have spectacular basil and garlic, you won't have spectacular pesto. Our basil is Italian in origin, Genovesa Profutissimo and our garlic is an heirloom hardneck, usually Spanish Roja (if not, then we substitute Chesnok Red or Inchellium Red). Combine these ingredients with some good pine nuts, olive oil and some quality Parmesan cheese and you have a treat that is hard to beat.
Just to prove you can't make the same pesto at home that we sell at The Learning Garden, here's the Rockenwagner recipe that I started with about seven years ago. It makes a good pesto, but if you add in Genovesa and Spanish Roja, you have something to celebrate!
Always try to process as little basil as possible at one time. If you use a food processor, chill the bowl and the blade so they stay cool while you make the pesto. Make sure to cover the pesto tightly or store in an airtight container imediately after making it. The top layer will discolor faster than the rest you can keep a thin layer of oil on top to stop oxygen from getting to the pesto and causing discoloration, but this will add more oil to the pesto each time you use it. Some of us think this is not a problem.
2 cloves of garlic
1½ Tablespoons lightly toasted pine nuts
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
¾ cup plus ½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine all the ingredients, except the ½ teaspoon olive oil, in a food processor and process until a puree forms, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Transfer to an airtight container and pour the remaining ½ teaspoon of olive oil over the pesto, covering completely. Cover and refrigerate until needed (the pesto keeps for several days, tightly covered, but loses it’s bright green color after the first day).
Come on over to The Learning Garden this Saturday, September 26th, 2-5 PM and pick up a jar of our famous pesto, or just sample it in an Italian meal on our patio in the company of our neighbors and good folks. Troop 2131 is providing the lemonade!