June 4, 2009

Perfect Pesto {Powernap}

Last week I took my daughter herb picking in her grandparent’s backyard. She loves to do this because it is one of the few occasions in which we encourage her to yank apart plants. Most of the time we end up tailing her around the flower beds reminding her to treat tulips gently, which she finds very boring since she’d rather pull them up, bulbs and all. The other day her herb “harvest” yielded several stalks of rosemary, a few handfuls of chives and, my favorite, large bunches of basil. After we separated our “crops” into ziploc bags we took them inside to assess the menu possibilities. Naturally, with the rosemary on hand, my father and husband agreed that lamb for dinner was the obvious choice. Mom happily took the chives to make her famous potato salad and, me, well, that was easy. I wanted all the basil I could grab, it was time to make pesto.

To my palate, this sauce is the epitome of summer with it’s pitch perfect blend of earthy sweet basil, fruity olive oil, rich pine nuts and salty cheese. A lot of people I know make pesto year-round with imported leaves they buy at the store. I have attempted to do this on several occasions, but have always been disappointed. The flavor tastes dull and lacks the bright lemony tang that comes with fresh basil directly from the source. Instead, I choose to make batch after batch of pesto during the summer and freeze it. This enables me to enjoy it all year, freeing me from the terrifying prospect of a pesto-free winter.

One of my favorite things about pesto is that it’s a snap to prepare. Making it only requires a few moments of pressing the pulse button on my food processor and, voila, the delicious sauce is finished. Needless to say, it is extremely simple to make during my daughter’s naptime, and the payoff is enormous. Once I have completed the laborious act of pulsing, I divide up the pesto amongst containers (two for the fridge, two for the freezer). I happily maintain this routine all the summer until I have enough in my freezer to last the entire winter.

My favorite way to enjoy pesto is served over warm pasta, or as a dressing for salad. On Saturday I stirred a big dollop into a bowl of delicious homemade gnocchi. Then, last night, I spread it on my vegetable panini. Even better, to my delight, my daughter has recently become obsessed with pesto and now eats it almost daily. Her favorite preparation is when I toss it with fresh cheese tortellini – I call it her “tortellini pesto bowl” – which she wolfs down without a second thought. I look forward to the day when I can explain that her favorite sauce is made with the plants she “harvests” from the backyard. I think she will be thrilled.


Naptime’s Go-to Perfect Pesto – adapted from an old recipe from Mom


2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (pack them in tightly!)
2 large garlic cloves
½ c. pine nuts
½ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ c. freshly grated Romano cheese
2/3 c. good olive oil


1. Combine basil and garlic in a food processor and blend to a fine paste.
2. Add pine nuts, process until smooth.
3. Add cheeses and process again, until smooth.
4. With the machine running, pour the olive oil in the food processor and mix until smooth and creamy. If pesto seems too thick pour in ¼ c. warm water.
5. Pesto will stay in the refrigerator for up to 10 days in a sealed container. Or, if you want to save it for later, freeze it using the instructions below.

Freezing Pesto: To freeze pesto put it in a sealed air-tight container like a small ziploc bag or tupperware. Some people like to freeze it in ice-cube trays, I did it once and it didn’t work well, but feel free to try it. Once it is thawed it should not be re-frozen.

Naptime Notes

Naptime Recipe Serving ideas

This is a basic pesto recipe that never fails and is extremely versatile. Sometimes I stir it into pasta salads or make a light pesto salad dressing, other times I like to use it as a sandwich spread or a dip with veggies.

Naptime Stopwatch

I am able to make a large batch of this pesto in less than 10 minutes. Take your time to make sure everything is combined well, this will make it most flavorful.

Naptime Reviews

Everyone loves a good pesto recipe and this one never disappoints. Once I added a little jalapeno for spice and everyone liked that, too!