Fresh basil pesto is perfect for mixing with pasta, for spreading on sandwiches, for serving with cheese and crusty bread, and for garnishing with thick slices of ripe tomato and fresh mozzarella. The vibrant green and fresh flavors make it natural for many summer recipes.
Homemade basil pesto is easy if you have a food processor and the right ingredients. Many grocers, including Trader Joe's, have containers of fresh basil leaves and even live basil plants for around $ 3-4. For this recipe, you will need about 4 ounces of fresh basil, the amount in a Trader Joe's container.
You certainly don't need exact measurements for this recipe, and if you like one ingredient more than another, feel free to adjust the proportions.
In addition to adjusting the proportions, you can also play with the choice of ingredients: combine all greens + all nuts + hard cheese + garlic + oil.
Pesto shouldn't be made with basil alone, although this is the most common. I made pesto with arugula, watercress, cilantro and parsley and fennel leaves (the wispy green vegetables that grow from fennel bulbs). Everything green works!
Pine nuts are among the most expensive nuts, and for me, they are my first selection of pesto. If you want to replace another nut, walnuts are a common choice and pepitas go well with cilantro.
And for cheese, some sort of parmesan or pecorino works well. What is the difference? Parmesan is made with cow's milk and pecorino is made with sheep's milk. Pecorino is generally saltier than Parmesan, so simply taste your pesto and adjust the salt in the finished product.
Trader Joe's sells frozen garlic cubes and these are easy to put in the food processor. Each cube corresponds to 1 teaspoon or 1 clove of crushed garlic. Surprisingly, the cubes taste like fresh garlic and are nice to have on hand in the freezer.
Use a good quality oil and whip the oil at the end. Do not add oil to the food processor with the other ingredients. Not only will the food processor bowl be more difficult to clean, the food processor blades will make extra virgin olive oil taste bitter. Never add extra virgin olive oil in a blender or food processor in any recipe.
- 4 oz of fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed or 2 cubes of frozen garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Add basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper to any food processor. Stir until the basil mixture is as smooth as you want. I still prefer a bit chunky like in the photo on the right.
- Transfer the basil mixture to a bowl (storage bowl if saving for later). Whisk in the oil and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
- Use immediately or store in the refrigerator.
If you store in the refrigerator, add a few teaspoons of lemon juice to the pesto. I use plastic wrap and squeeze it over the pesto to minimize oxidation. The top itself will still turn a little brown over time - just stir it up when you're ready to use.
Whether you regularly whip up Michelin-worthy meals at the drop of a hat or your cooking skills are best described as “fine, ” you can always benefit from the helpful little tricks of others. Here, 14 of our friends’, families’ and coworkers’ most-used cooking tips.
There’s a time and a place to whip out that complicated coq au vin recipe you’ve been dying to try. A dinner party isn’t that time. With a new recipe, you’ll likely be chained to the kitchen the whole time, plus, when you’re trying something for the first time, there’s always the possibility that it could go horribly wrong. When cooking for a group, we always err on the side of tried-and-true crowd-pleasers.
You do hours of prep work on an intricate dish, only to be totally disappointed once you taste the terminal product. Bummer. Instead of putting in all that effort only to be disappointed, taste while you cook. That way, you’ll realize sooner that the dish isn’t tasting how you’d like it to, and you can make all kinds of last-ditch exercices to save it. This doesn’t just work for bad-to-OK meals. Tasting midway through and realizing how perfect a dash of cayenne or a squirt of lemon juice would be can take a great dinner to legendary status.
Plating pasta means tossing some onto a plate and finishing it with a nice dollop of sauce right on the middle, right ? Wrong. Here’s how to take your carbs to the next level : On the stove there should be two pans, one with pasta and one with sauce. Cook the pasta to al dente and transfer it into the sauce. Then, add a little bit of pasta water ( literally just the starchy water the pasta has been cooking in ), which will help the sauce cling to the pasta while also keeping it the right consistency. Perfection.
In the pursuit of the perfect steak, you have to be OK with your kitchen getting a little smoky. That’s because, to get the mouthwatering sear we’re all after, the meat has to be dry and the pan should be pretty damn close to smoking hot. Trust us, it’s worth a few seconds of a blaring alarm.
Most foods are ruined by too much salt. Steak is different. When it comes to seasoning your meat ( before you cook it ), more is more. Use a generous amount of coarse Kosher salt—more than you think you need. Since most cuts of steak are pretty thick, even though you’re using a lot of salt, it’s still only covering the surface.
This one isn’t too complicated. Whether you’re making avocado toast, pizza, fried rice or a burger, the addition of a fried egg on top will not hurt your feelings. Trust us.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but we’ve definitely found ourselves in a situation where we assumed we knew all of the ingredients that went into chocolate chip cookies only to find out that we had about half the required amount of brown sugar. Ugh. to avoid a mid-cooking grocery-store trip, read the recipe from front to back—carefully—before you start.
Prepping grains in mass quantities is less about taste than convenience. Rice, quinoa and even oatmeal last about a week in the fridge after being cooked. When we’re prepping any one of those, we double up our measurements and store the leftovers, which are then impossibly easy to use up throughout the week. Too tired to make dinner ? Heat up some leftover rice from the fridge and toss an egg on top ( remember ? ). Couldn’t be simpler.
So you fried up a pound of bacon for an indulgent ( read : delicious ) brunch. Great, just make sure you don’t throw out the grease in the pan. Instead, save it in the refrigerator or freezer ( it technically lasts for up to a year, but should be used sooner than that to take full advantage of its flavor ). Then, anytime you’re cooking something you typically prepare in oil, try cooking it in the bacon grease instead. You’ll never want to eat Brussels sprouts the old way again.
You’ve probably heard that whenever a dish is lacking a little something-something, the best thing to do is toss in some salt. But, we have it on good authority that salt isn’t always the answer. When you’re tasting a dish at the end and you think it needs a little oomph, often it just needs a splash of acid ( like lemon juice ) to round out the flavor.
You know the difference between a paring knife and a fillet knife, but do you know how to take care of them ? Or, more importantly, how to use them ? A set of good knives can be the difference between a stressful cooking experience and a great one. First, practice your knife skills. Look up tutorials on YouTube and practice chopping, slicing and julienne-ing. It’s amazing what you can do with your cook time when your prep time is shortened with solid knife skills. Then, once you’ve got your skills down pat, learn how to take care of your set. No one ever achieved kitchen greatness with a dull chef’s knife.
The key to tender, flavorful barbecue and roasts ? Cooking it on a low temperature for a long time. The same doesn’t go for roasting veggies. For crispy, perfectly cooked butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and more, remember the magic number : 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Any lower, and you risk pulling a pan of blah carrots out of the oven. It might seem high, but to get the nice roasted flavor, you need high heat. And while we’re on the subject, stop crowding your veggies in the pan, which will also make them soggy.
You know how just about every cookie recipe suggests that you chill your dough in the refrigerator for at least a few hours, but oftentimes you don’t listen because you just want cookies now ? ! ( Same. ) Unfortunately, this step actually does make a difference. In addition to limiting how much the dough spreads while baking, chilling your dough intensifies the flavors and produces that perfect chewy, crispy matière we know and love.
It won’t do your breath any favors, but never ( ever ) scrimp on garlic. In fact, we typically double the amount a recipe calls for. Apologies to anyone who was planning on kissing us.