Late summer food

That would be pesto — because basil (Ocimum basilicum) is exquisitely frost-tender, so needs to be harvested before the first frost and put to use immediately. In Columbus OH that meant turning gigantic piles of headily fragrant basil leaves into containers of pesto for the freezer.

In tune with the seasons, the bon appétit magazine site for the August 2018 issue offers a recipe for “BA’s Best Pesto”:


(Photos by Alex Lau for the magazine.)

Background on this blog: in my 11/18/11 posting “The Food issue [of The New Yorker], with pesto”, with some history of pesto and etymology for pesto.

On to bon appétit:

Makes about 1½ cups

The key for this classic pesto recipe is to add the basil at the very end instead of blending everything all at once. That way the basil doesn’t get bruised or lose its flavor and maintains its vibrant green color.

Ingredients: ½ cup pine nuts [aka pignolias]; 3 oz. Parmesan [or similar grating cheese], finely grated (about ¾ cup) [grate fresh Parmesan right before the rest of the procedure]; 2 garlic cloves, finely grated; 6 cups basil leaves (about 3 bunches); ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil; 1 tsp. kosher salt

Recipe preparation: Preheat oven to 350°. Toast pine nuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once halfway through, until golden brown, 5–7 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and let cool. [The magazine swears that this bit of roasting provides a much nuttier flavor. Not a step I’ve used before, but I might try it.] Add cheese and garlic and pulse until finely ground, about 1 minute. Add basil and place the top back on. With the motor running, add oil in a slow and steady stream until pesto is mostly smooth, with just a few flecks of green, about 1 minute. Season with salt.

Do Ahead: Pesto can be made 1 day ahead. Top with ½” oil to prevent browning. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto surface, and chill. [It can also be frozen, in which case it’s better to leave the grated cheese out and mix it in when the frozen pesto is thawed.]

Cooks’ Note: If you want to use this with pasta [pesto has many uses as a sauce or topping for other purposes], cook 12 oz. dried pasta (we prefer long pasta for pesto) in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking liquid.

Place pesto and 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces, in a large bowl. Add pasta and ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid. Using tongs, toss vigorously, adding more pasta cooking liquid if needed, until pasta is glossy and well coated with sauce. Season with salt. [Many people forgo this rich, smooth finish and just use the pesto straight on pasta.]

Divide pasta among bowls. Top with finely grated Parmesan.


I’m especially fond of pesto on rotini.

One Response to “Late summer food”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    This is pesto (alla) Genovese / genovese. Alternative versions of pesto use a different green — flat (Italian) parsley substituted for some or all of the basil, or cilantro, or baby spinach — or a different nut — ground almonds instead of pine nuts (they’re smoother and subtler), or walnuts, or pecans. Some of these combinations (in particular, flat parsley and ground walnuts) are very nice on their own and shouldn’t be treated as mere approximations to “real” pesto.

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