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In a mere 10 minutes, bland pasta, plain pizza crust and a tomato, or a simple chicken sandwich can be transformed into something amazingly flavorful. The uses for pesto are numerous.
Being a condiment with a fabulously easy preparation and complex flavor, one might think the list of ingredients and preparation are pretty cut-and-dry. If you begin searching the internet for a recipe, you might be surprised to find that pesto has another endearing quality; it's preparation is very adaptable! You can use the variety of basil you grew in your garden or that is available in your local store or farmer's market. If you don't have access to fresh basil or don't like the flavor of it, try using spinach. If you don't like pine nuts, use walnuts. If you have a large block of Asiago cheese instead of Parmigiano-Reggiano in your refrigerator (raising my hand), try the Asiago. If you like pesto thick, use less oil. If you like it more creamy, find a recipe that includes butter. The only suggestion I would say you should follow is to use the best quality ingredients that are within your budget.
As to the preparation, although it is called pesto (technically it is Pesto alla Genovese) because traditionally it was prepared using a mortar and pestle, most people prefer the convenience of using a food processor. In the case of one who does not own a food processor (raising my hand again), a blender works just fine. And, finally, if you are a lover of tradition, by all means stick to the traditional ways of preparing your pesto.
2 cups of fresh, washed and dried, basil leaves (younger leaves will have a milder flavor), packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
salt and ground black pepper to taste
Combine the basil and pin nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the garlic and pulse a few more times.
Slowly drizzle in the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is running. Scrape down the sides of the container, and continue pulsing until the ingredients are evenly chopped and incorporated.
Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
If you are fortunate enough to have access to more basil than you can consume within a few days, pesto can be made, frozen, and saved for those cold winter months when fresh basil is not so readily available. It can be frozen in ice cube trays, mini muffin pans (they pop out effortlessly from a silicon pan), or in larger containers if you prefer.