Fresh pesto on pasta with a side of tofu sausages cooked in crushed tomatoes.

Fresh pesto on pasta with a side of tofu sausages cooked in crushed tomatoes.

The basil in my garden grew like crazy while we were gone, which meant that I could finally make a long-awaited summer meal for my family. Tonight we dined on pesto, a treat which I only make in the summer months, when the garden starts producing mad amounts of basil.

I don’t so much have a recipe for pesto as have a few guidelines that I roughly respect when I whip it up. I usually opt for walnuts rather than pine nuts because pine nuts tend to upset my stomach if they are the slightest bit rancid. I tend to add a little parsley, mainly because the robust tussles of it tempt me whenever I go out to cut the basil. I go easy on the garlic because Hubby complains if the flavor is too strong. And finally, I use Pecorino Romano rather than Parmesan to save a few bucks. Tonight I actually measured things so that I could share my “recipe” with you.

Homestead Pesto
This recipe makes enough pesto to toss with a pound of pasta for 8 servings, but you can use just half of it with 8 ounces of pasta to serve 4. You can save the extra pesto in a container topped with a thin layer of olive oil for a few days and use it for other things, like pizza, garlic bread, or adding to soups.

  • 2 cups fresh basil (replace up to 1/2 cup with parsley if desired)
  • 1/3 cup walnut bits
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 big garlic cloves (more or less to taste)
  • 1/3 cup Pecorino Romano
  • salt to taste
  • Pasta (1 pound will serve 8, 1/2 pound for 4)
  1. Bring water to a boil and begin cooking pasta according to package directions. If you are using angel hair, don’t cook the pasta until the pesto is fully ready, but for anything taking 10 minutes or so, go ahead and start it before making the pesto.
  2. Heat a small cast iron skillet until hot, them remove from heat. Toss walnuts in hot pan to toast.
  3. Go pick basil and parsley. Wash well and dry (I use a salad spinner).
  4. Combine garlic and walnuts in a food processor and process until finely ground, but stop before you make walnut butter. Add oil, basil, and parsley, if using. Process until all is finally ground. Add cheese and extra oil if needed (remember this is a paste, not a sauce, so don’t overdo it). Process for a few seconds to combine.
  5. Check pasta and drain if done, but save a little of the cooking water. Add pesto to hot pasta along with a little cooking water and toss to coat. If you are only making a half pound of pasta, only use half the pesto. Top with extra cheese if desired.
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