This is our version of the most familiar and most popular pesto: Pesto all Genovese. You can make a green pesto out of almost any green + any nut/seed + any dry salty cheese, but Genovese is our go to in the height of summer.
The basil plants are getting huge. The garlic is in. Both signs that it's time to have a pesto-making day. We're of the mind that if you're going to the trouble of making pesto, it's go big or go home. So, the recipe below is for making enough pesto to freeze and keep for a few meals throughout the year.
This is roughly enough pesto to make five pesto pasta dinners for four diners per meal. Or to use as sauce for 12 large pizzas--if you haven't tried pesto in place of tomato sauce on a pizza, you need to right away. Pesto isn't, after all, just for pasta. It also makes a ridiculously yummy shmear on a sandwich. Or thinned out with a little more olive oil, it makes a great drizzle on grilled meats or veggies.
1 cup parmesan cheese (roughly chopped from a big block. get good cheese. it makes a difference.)
1 cup pinenuts
7 garlic cloves (peeled and smashed with the flat of your chef's knife)
8 cups basil leaves (preferably sweet Italian basil)
¾ cup + 1 TBSP olive oil (some people really care about the kind they use, but whatever flavor it could impart is pretty overwhelmed by the garlic and basil)
½ tsp salt
5 turns of pepper grinder
1 tsp honey (optional)
We suggest tasting as you go, so that you can get a sense of how each ingredient affects the flavor. But we usually put it together in this order:
In a large food processor, pulse together the pine nuts, parmesan, and garlic until they look like cheaper parmesan shake-cheese you can still get at the grocery.
Then add basil with olive oil--you may have to do this addition in a few batches because the flat leaves take up a bunch of space, but then hardly any space at all once pulsed. So add a handful of leaves and some of the olive oil, pulse, repeat.
Definitely taste it at this point. If there's no bite from the garlic, you need to add more. If there's no nutty flavor, you will need to add more pinenuts. Then add the salt, pepper, and honey.
Honey is not a traditional ingredient of pesto and its purpose is not to make the pesto taste sweet. Both honey and molasses--much like salt--are excellent for making a thing taste rounder and more fully like itself. Trust us. Maybe make the pesto without honey, but then add a short drizzle to one half cup of it, mix it up and see whether you prefer it with or without.
We immediately put all but one serving of this into small 1/2-cup containers and freeze them (ice trays also work). We make several large batches throughout the summer and they have lasted us, frozen, into early spring of the following year.