Basil for me is the smell of summer. I absolutely adore this wonderful aromatic herb and love to grow a number of plants so I can always cut it fresh to use, it makes a remarkable difference to both the taste and smell than using pre cut stems.
Basil is mostly associated with Italian cooking where it a perfect match for sweet ripe tomatoes and creamy buffalo mozzarella in a Caprese salad…on a simple margarita pizza or of course, in pesto. This is the type mostly used for cooking in Europe however there are over 40 varieties of the herb which are used extensively in Thai, Vietnamese and Indian dishes, all with very different flavours.
Whilst the flavour and fragrance is what we use it for, it has some pretty remarkable nutritional properties too. High in antioxidants and a defence to infection and inflammation, this herb has been used for centuries in herbal medicine. It is packed with vitamin k, magnesium, zinc and potassium too.
As much as I adore this herb I absolutely hate shop bought pesto. I have tried all kinds and brands including from good stores in Italy and it has zero resemblance to real homemade pesto. The colour is wrong, it smells wrong and it tastes bitter and oily. Whilst it is so tempting to buy a jar for an easy quick dinner, this recipe takes 15 minutes if you have a stick blender.
Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe
Simply delicious stirred through pasta or risotto. It will keep well in the fridge for up to a week, so long as you pour a layer of olive oil on top of it to prevent it from oxidising. We don’t use garlic in our pesto as we just like the basil to shine through.
90g washed basil leaves (you can keep some of the smaller stalks in this but not the thicker main stalk)
60 ml extra virgin olive oil
120g parmesan cheese
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp very hot water
- Place the basil leaves and oil into a 1 litre beaker and blitz with a stick blender. Blend into a puree, adding a splash of water and little more oil if needed.
- Add the cheese and pine nuts and blitz again until all the ingredients are fully combined.
- Store in a clean jar and top with a thin layer of olive oil.
Absolute doddle 🙂