Basil: In Every Herb Garden
Are you a gardener? If so, do you grow basil? Every gardener I know has it for one main reason: pesto. That fragrant, flavorful, impossibly green spread that is so delicious and yet packed with nutrition. Here, I will show you how to make the classic version. Read on, my friends, and you, too, can be dipping your sourdough bread into a nice big bowl of Basil Walnut Pesto.Jump to Recipe
History of Pesto
For the kitchen novice, pesto is a vibrant blend of basil, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan, and salt. It is used as a dip, a spread, and a sauce for pasta. One of my favorite ways to eat it is to mix it with homemade mayonnaise to make a dip.
The word “pesto” originates from an Italian verb that means “to crush” or “to pound”. Interestingly, it led to the English word “pestle”, as in, a mortar and pestle. The traditional way to prepare pesto is to use a mortar and pestle and pound the ingredients into a smooth paste. Nowadays, most people use a food processor.
The word “pesto” can refer to various dishes made by pounding, but the most popular here in America is the Genovese Basil Pesto.
Benefits of Pesto
Pesto is a mixture of basil, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and usually pine nuts. In this case I used walnuts, since they are cheaper and easier to come by. Let’s take a look at the health factor of each ingredient.
Basil has so much going for it, in addition to its flavor. It is anti-inflammatory, high in antioxidants, boosts the immune system, is good for blood vessels, and so much more. Eating pesto delivers a high dose of basil, as opposed to just having a few leaves as a garnish (which is still good).
Extra virgin olive oil is also high in antioxidants and provides essential fats that the brain needs. These healthy fats can help protect against depression [source]. However, try to do your research when it comes to choosing healthy olive oils. Some of them are mixed with vegetable oils without disclosing it. Here is a list I found online to help you choose authentic olive oils. I usually use the Zoe brand of extra virgin olive oil that comes from Portugal, and I also like the one that Thrive Market carries.
Aged Parmesan Reggiano cheese is quite healthy for those who do dairy, and may even be tolerable by lactose-intolerant individuals. Additionally, it is a good source of protein, healthy fat, and probiotics.
Garlic has sulfur compounds which have been shown to protect against illness such as the common cold. Lastly, walnuts have been shown to help with weight management as well as help your bones and your brain.
How to Serve Pesto
There are a variety of ways to serve this classic pesto. Some of my favorites include:
- Mix with homemade mayo and serve with crudités
- Toss with pasta and peas
- Spread on crusty bread
- Dollop on soup
- Thin with more olive oil to make a salad dressing
And that’s a wrap, my friends. I hope you find more ways to use this pesto, and don’t forget to leave me a comment below to let me know what you created.
Until next time,
Basil Walnut Pesto
- Food processor, optional
- 4 cups basil leaves
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese or other hard, aged cheese, such as Pecorino Romano or Grana Padano
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 3 large cloves garlic about 3 tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Place basil, walnuts, garlic, salt and Parmesan cheese in bowl of food processor.
- Lock the lid into place. Turn the food processor on and slowly pour the olive oil in with the machine running. Turn off food processor, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and repeat until all ingredients are mixed into a saucy paste.
- Alternately, using a mortar and pestle, pound together garlic and basil. Add in walnuts and continue pounding. Add in salt and cheese. Pound, adding in olive oil a little at a time, eventually switching to mixing.